Huawei says it will “take all possible measures” to protect its “legal rights and interests” following a decision by the Australian government to ban it from participating in the rollout of 5G services.
The company did not spell out precisely what steps it would take and said that it would make no further comment on the issue this week.
Then communications minister Senator Mitch Fifield and Treasurer and prime minister designate Scott Morrison, while acting as home affairs minister, yesterday issued a statement revealing that the government had “undertaken an extensive review of the national security risks to 5G networks”.
The government’s Telecommunications Sector Security Reforms (TSSR) give it extensive powers to issue security-related directions to telcos — including directions relating to procurement decisions. The TSSR regime takes effect on 18 September.
Although the government’s statement didn’t mention Huawei, the company said that it and another Chinese firm, ZTE, had been banned from providing telecommunications equipment for the rollout of 5G by Australia’s mobile network operators: Telstra, Vodafone, Optus and, soon, TPG.
In their statement, Fifield and Morrison said that the federal government “considers that the involvement of vendors who are likely to be subject to extrajudicial directions from a foreign government that conflict with Australian law, may risk failure by the carrier to adequately protect a 5G network from unauthorised access or interference.”
The pair was referring to China’s national intelligence law, which compels organisations to “support, cooperate with, and collaborate in national intelligence work, and guard the secrecy of national intelligence work they are aware of.”
“Interpreting Chinese law should be left to qualified and impartial legal experts,” Huawei said today in its statement.
“Huawei has presented the Australian Government with an independent, third-party expert analysis of the Chinese laws in question: Chinese law does not grant government the authority to compel telecommunications firms to install backdoors or listening devices, or engage in any behaviour that might compromise the telecommunications equipment of other nations.”
“A mistaken and narrow understanding of Chinese law should not serve as the basis for concerns about Huawei's business,” the company said. “Huawei has never been asked to engage in intelligence work on behalf of any government.”
Huawei has previously indicated it was interesting in tendering only for the Radio Access Network portion of telcos’ 5G networks. The government has argued that 5G blurred the distinction between a mobile network’s edge and core, and that there were no adequate security controls that could isolate the two.
“There is no fundamental difference between 5G and 4G network architecture; the core networks and access networks are still separated,” Huawei said.
Huawei has provided equipment used by Vodafone and Optus in their 4G LTE networks.
“Moreover, 5G has stronger guarantees around privacy and security protection than 3G and 4G,” the company said.
“We urge the government to take an objective and fact-based approach to security issues, and work together on effective long-term solutions. Open dialogue, joint innovation, and close collaboration are essential to the ongoing development of the telecommunications industry.”
Vodafone yesterday condemned government’s decision: “This decision, which has been dropped on the eve of the 5G auction, creates uncertainty for carriers’ investment plans,” said Vodafone Hutchison Australia’s chief strategy officer Dan Lloyd
The ban will reduce competition and raise the cost of network construction, Huawei said.
“In the end, everyday businesses and consumers are the ones who will suffer the most from the government's actions,” it said.