Chinese tech giants Huawei and ZTE have effectively been banned from providing equipment to Australia’s 5G mobile network, due to national security concerns.
Last year, Australia’s government brought in rules requiring telecommunications companies to ensure they protect networks from unauthorised interference or access that might threaten national security.
On Thursday, Australia’s Home Affairs office sought to enforce those rules, citing the increased complexity of 5G’s network architecture compared to current technologies.
The government said that 5G’s network architecture “provides a way to circumvent traditional security controls,” and that it hadn’t found a method which could sufficiently protect users from those risks.
It singled out companies who might be subject to government meddling as a national security concern, but didn’t name ZTE or Huawei explicitly — although Huawei confirmed their inclusion in the ban on Twitter.
“The 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 statement reads.
The U.S. government last week officially banned agencies from purchasing or using certain telecommunications and surveillance products from Chinese tech companies, like Huawei and ZTE.
It followed warnings from heads of the FBI and CIA, who expressed concern about the threat of espionage from its phones earlier this year.
In a statement via Twitter, Huawei said it was “an extremely disappointing result for consumers.” The chairman of Huawei’s Australian arm, John Lord, responded to claims the company was a risk to national security.
“We believe that companies like Huawei are privately owned, not owned by any committee or any government, and should be looked at and put into a competitive tendering,” he told ABC News.
“We’re happy to have our equipment tested, we’re happy to have it analysed.”
We have been informed by the Govt that Huawei & ZTE have been banned from providing 5G technology to Australia. This is a extremely disappointing result for consumers. Huawei is a world leader in 5G. Has safely & securely delivered wireless technology in Aust for close to 15 yrs
— Huawei Australia (@HuaweiOZ) August 22, 2018
Telecommunications company Vodafone Australia said in a statement via email that while it agrees national security “is paramount,” the sudden decision is of concern.
“This decision, which has been dropped on the eve of the 5G auction, creates uncertainty for carriers’ investment plans,” the statement added.
“This decision is a significant change which fundamentally undermines Australia’s 5G future, and we will consider what it means for our business.”