CEO of NZ’s Spark defends potential 5G role for Huawei

'We see no reason why Huawei should not be among the vendors we consider' for 5G, CEO says

The chief executive of New Zealand’s Spark, Simon Moutter, has come out strongly in support of Huawei as a potential supplier of 5G mobile network technology.

The US and Australian governments have excluded the company from the rollout of 5G, arguing that at the behest of the Chinese government, its technology could be used to extract information from the networks it supports, or to compromise the performance of those networks.

In the most direct warning to date, the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) director-general Mike Burgess said this week, without mentioning Huawei: "This is about more than just protecting the confidentiality of our information – it is also about integrity and availability of the data and systems on which we depend. Getting security right for our critical infrastructure is paramount.”

However Moutter told Spark's AGM: "Although we have yet to make decisions on our 5G technology partners, based on their track record with us, we see no reason why Huawei should not be among the vendors we consider inviting to the process."

He acknowledged that, ultimately the decision was for the government to make but said: "We would hope that our government would not preclude them from being considered without incontrovertible evidence their technology presents security risks that the comprehensive security management tools we employ in our networks cannot mitigate."

Huawei has provided technology for Spark's 3G and 4G mobile networks, in particular, the radio access network, and Moutter was fulsome in his praise for the company.

"We have found Huawei to be a very good mobile RAN provider for Spark – they’re a world leader in mobile technology, they’re very responsive to our requirements and have provided good commercial value," he said.

"Although we have yet to make decisions on our 5G technology partners, based on their track record with us, we see no reason why Huawei should not be among the vendors we consider inviting to the process."

Government urged to act on 5G spectrum

Moutter also urged the government to expedite the allocation of spectrum for 5G services, calling on it to make clear policy decisions on what spectrum will be available, and when.

"In particular, the government should move to allocate the C-Band and mmWave bands as soon as possible, to ensure 5G services can be up and running in time for the 2020-21 America’s Cup in Auckland as an international [5G] showcase opportunity," he said.

"If we don’t start to make spectrum policy decisions quickly we will be left behind in the race to 5G by our close neighbours, and many other countries around the world that have already got on and auctioned this spectrum off…

"I can’t stress this enough: the policy settings created by Government are fundamental to the performance of our sector and to the transformative impacts it can have on New Zealand’s social and economic progress."

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