Australia bans ZTE and Huawei from supplying 5G equipment

23 Aug 2018

Image: tharathip/Shutterstock

Australia is set to launch its commercial 5G network next year, but it looks like Huawei and ZTE won’t get to be a part of it.

The Australian government has banned Huawei and ZTE from supplying equipment for its commercial 5G mobile network.

The government said that national security regulations that used to typically apply to telecom carriers are now being extended to equipment suppliers.

Australia hints at Huawei and ZTE ban

In its new guidelines, the Australian government didn’t mention Huawei and ZTE by name, but it did make suggestions linking the companies to the new rules.

It said: “The government considers that the involvement of vendors who are likely to be subject to extrajudicial directions from 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 changes bring Australia in line with the US, which has restricted ZTE and Huawei for similar reasons.

Espionage worries

A new law in China passed last year obligates all Chinese organisations and citizens to provide information to intelligence agencies. This is making people and countries wary of potential espionage. Australia had flagged issues in June of this year.

Huawei Australia said it was an “extremely disappointing result for consumers”. Both Huawei and ZTE have consistently said there is no need for concern.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said that Australia should not “use various excuses to artificially erect barriers”.

5G network presents different threats

The government noted that in 5G, the distinctions between the core network and the edge are much less defined. It said: “This new architecture provides a way to circumvent traditional security controls by exploiting equipment in the edge of the network – exploitation which may affect overall network integrity and availability, as well as the confidentiality of customer data.”

The country had previously banned Huawei from providing equipment for its fibre optic network. Australia had also made moves to block the Chinese firm from laying subsea cables in the Pacific.

Acting minister for home affairs in Australia, Scott Morrison, said: “The security of 5G networks will have fundamental implications for all Australians, as well as the security of critical infrastructure, over the next decade.”

Minister for communications and the arts, Mitch Fifield, added: “The government is committed to the timely roll-out of 5G networks in Australia.

“5G will drive substantial economic and social benefits across the economy through new technologies which will be used in autonomous vehicles, smart cities and advanced agriculture.

“To fully realise 5G’s benefits, government and industry need to continue to work together to take necessary steps to safeguard the security of Australians’ information and communications at all times, and the integrity and availability of the networks themselves.”

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects