Australia has banned Chinese telecommunications network equipment manufacturers Huawei and ZTE from supplying operators in their 5G deployments.
The government did not name specific companies in its statement but said that because 5G will make mobile networks so important to everyday life, and be used to connected industrial and safety systems, that the use of certain suppliers was an unacceptable risk.
At the heart of its concerns is network architecture. Future releases of 5G will allow operators to move certain functions from the core to the edge of the network, a process which will reduce latency and enable applications like the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), connected cars and even robotic surgery.
The Australian government argues that by moving these functions away from the relative security of the core to the edge increases the possibility of threats and means that current measures to mitigate them will become less effective.
“While we are protected as far as possible by current security controls, the new network, with its increased complexity, would render these current protections ineffective in 5G,” said the statement
“Therefore, Government has expectations of the application of the TSSR obligations with respect to the involvement of third party vendors in 5G networks, including evolution of networks leading to mature 5G networks.
“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.
“This applies equally to all carriers, consistent with government’s long-standing commitment to a level playing field in the sector.”
“We have been informed by the Govt that Huawei & ZTE have been banned from providing 5G technology to Australia,” Huawei Australia said in a Tweet. “This is an extremely disappointing result for consumers. Huawei is a world leader in 5G [and] has safely & securely delivered wireless technology in [Australia] for close to 15 years.”
Like the US, Australia has long held concerns about the security of Huawei equipment due to the company’s alleged links with the Chinese government. However, unlike the US, Huawei has never been frozen out of the market and has been a supplier in the Australian market for 15 years and counts Vodafone, Optus and TPG among its customer base.
Huawei has always denied any allegations of connections with Beijing and says it abides by the laws of the 170 countries it operates and has made significant 5G investments in the UK, Canada and New Zealand. It has previously offered to build an evaluation and testing centre in Australia to easy any concerns and has an open invitation for Australian official and security agencies to meet with its R&D teams.
The company has been contacted for further comment.