New Zealand 'blocks' use of Huawei 5G kit

New Zealand has become the latest western nation to express concern about the use of Huawei’s equipment in 5G networks, blocking operator Spark’s request to deploy the Chinese firm’s kit.

Spark wanted to deploy Huawei’s radio access network (RAN) equipment in its infrastructure, but the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) said this would “raise significant national security risks.”

Huawei has effectively been frozen out of the US market, although it does provide equipment to a number of smaller players in the country, while Australia has banned its operators from using Huawei equipment in their 5G rollouts on national security grounds.

It has also been reported that the US is urging its allies to take similar actions.

Huawei New Zealand

The main basis for these fears is a perception that Huawei is linked to the Chinese government and that the use of the company’s equipment risks the possibility of backdoors that could be used for espionage.

Huawei has repeatedly denied such accusations, pointing out that it works with security agencies around the world and that it sells products to more than 500 operators in 170 countries without issue. This includes the UK, where BT, EE, Vodafone and Three are all customers.

The Shenzhen-based firm already a major supplier in New Zealand’s 4G networks but it appears as though the country’s government has similar concerns to Australia, which fears the security of core network infrastructure could be compromised if Huawei equipment was to be deployed.

 “Spark has not yet had an opportunity to review the detailed reasoning behind the Director-General’s decision,” said Spark. “Following our review, Spark will consider what further steps, if any, it will take.

“While we are disappointed with this decision, we are confident that the decision will not affect our plans to launch Spark’s 5G network by 1 July 2020, subject to the necessary spectrum being made available by the New Zealand Government.”

Next steps

It has been suggested that the New Zealand authorities are willing to work with Huawei to ease concerns but there will be little demand among operators for barriers to the use of Huawei kit as this would reduce choice, hinder innovation and increase costs.

Only this week, Huawei revealed it had shipped more than 10,000 5G base stations outside China and had signed 22 commercial 5G contracts with foreign operators.

“As the GCSB has noted, this is an ongoing process,” a Huawei spokesperson told TechRadar Pro. “We will actively address any concerns and work together to find a way forward. As a leading global supplier of telecoms equipment, we remain committed to developing trusted and secure solutions for our customers.

“Huawei's 5G equipment is already being deployed by major carriers around the world, with whom we have signed more than 20 commercial 5G contracts. This alone is a testament to our position as a leading global supplier of 5G technology.

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.