Huawei of­fers se­cu­rity deal

The Southland Times - - News - Tom Pullar-Strecker

Chi­nese telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions equip­ment gi­ant Huawei would be open to us­ing only New Zealan­ders rather than Chi­nese work­ers to build 5G mo­bile net­works here, if that helped as­suage spy­ing con­cerns, a lo­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tive says.

Huawei New Zealand deputy manag­ing di­rec­tor An­drew Bowa­ter of­fered the con­ces­sion in the wake of the ar­rest of one of its em­ploy­ees in Poland on spy­ing charges.

Pol­ish au­thor­i­ties an­nounced on Fri­day that a Huawei di­rec­tor, Wang Wei­jing, and a Pol­ish cy­ber­se­cu­rity ex­pert were ac­cused of car­ry­ing out ‘‘es­pi­onage against Poland’’.

Huawei sacked its em­ployee, ac­knowl­edg­ing ‘‘the in­ci­dent’’ had brought the com­pany into dis­re­pute. Pol­ish state TV re­ported both ac­cused men had de­clared them­selves in­no­cent.

Bowa­ter said he was aware of the sit­u­a­tion in Poland, but it ap­peared the in­di­vid­u­als’ ac­tions had no re­la­tion to the com­pany.

It was too soon to say whether the ac­cu­sa­tions could af­fect its hopes of build­ing 5G in New Zealand, he said.

New Zealand’s Gov­ern­ment Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Se­cu­rity Bureau (GCSB) blocked a pro­posal by Spark in Novem­ber to use equip­ment from Huawei to build its 5G mo­bile net­work, which it hopes to have op­er­a­tional by July next year.

How­ever, the GCSB in­di­cated the de­ci­sion was the ‘‘start of process’’ which might not nec­es­sary amount to an out­right ban.

Spark spokesman An­drew Pirie has pre­vi­ously con­firmed its pro­posal would have seen Huawei staff in­stall as well as sup­ply 5G ac­cess equip­ment on its cell­phone tow­ers.

One of the GCSB’s con­cerns – though not its only one – is un­der­stood to be the ‘‘Na­tional In­tel­li­gence Law’’ passed by China’s Na­tional Peo­ple’s Con­gress in June last year.

The law has been in­ter­preted by Western in­tel­li­gence agen­cies as re­quir­ing any Chi­nese cit­i­zen or com­pany linked to China to en­gage in es­pi­onage or to col­lect in­tel­li­gence any­where in the world if re­quested.

Bowa­ter said the GCSB had still not spo­ken to Huawei di­rectly about the rea­sons why Spark’s pro­posal was de­clined, which he said would be help­ful.

But if the Na­tional In­tel­li­gence Law was a con­cern, ‘‘even that could be mit­i­gated’’ by a com­mit­ment to use only ‘‘100 per cent New Zealan­ders’’ for in­stalls, he said.

Other is­sues have emerged since the GCSB blocked Spark’s pro­posal.

On De­cem­ber 21, the GCSB joined Amer­i­can and British spy agen­cies in ac­cus­ing the Chi­nese Min­istry of State Se­cu­rity of be­ing linked to a global cam­paign of cy­ber-en­abled com­mer­cial in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty theft.

Any block on Huawei be­ing in­volved in the roll­out of 5G in New Zealand could dis­pro­por­tion­ately af­fect 2de­grees, which has largely re­lied on the Chi­nese firm to sup­ply the bulk of its net­work tech­nol­ogy. 2de­grees also says prices could rise if Eric­s­son and Nokia were the only al­ter­na­tive ven­dors.

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