Canada bans Chinese Huawei and ZTE technologies from 5G telecommunications networks

OTTAWA — The Liberal government is barring Chinese vendors Huawei Technologies and ZTE from accessing Canada’s long-awaited plan for next-generation mobile networks.

OTTAWA — The Liberal government is barring Chinese vendors Huawei Technologies and ZTE from accessing Canada’s long-awaited plan for next-generation mobile networks.

“Telecommunications companies in Canada will not be allowed to include products or services in their networks that jeopardize our national security,” Innovation Minister François-Philippe Champagne said Thursday in Ottawa.

“Vendors who have already installed this equipment will need to stop using it and remove it as part of the plans we are announcing today.”

The development of 5G, or fifth-generation, wireless networks will give people faster online connections and provide vast data capacity to meet voracious demand as more devices connect to the internet and as innovations such as autonomous vehicles emerge.

Opposition conservatives and other critics have long pressed the liberals to deny Huawei a role in building the country’s 5G infrastructure.

They said it would make it easier for Beijing to spy on Canadians.

Some say Huawei’s participation could give it access to an array of digital insights learned from how, when and where Canadian customers use internet-connected devices.

In turn, according to the theory, Chinese security agencies could force the company to hand over the personal information.

Huawei has firmly insisted that it is a fiercely independent company that does not spy on anyone, including Beijing.

ZTE is a partly state-owned Chinese technology company specializing in telecommunications.

Champagne told a hastily called news conference on Thursday that the decision followed a full review by Canada’s security agencies, in consultation with Ottawa’s closest allies.

“We will always protect the safety and security of Canadians. And we will take all necessary steps to protect our telecommunications infrastructure.”

Three of Canada’s partners in the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance – the United States, Britain and Australia – have already taken decisive action to limit the use of Huawei equipment in 5G networks. respective to their countries.

The Liberal government and public servants have been asked repeatedly over the past few years about Ottawa’s 5G intentions.

“It was never a race,” Champagne said Thursday. “It’s about making the right decision. It’s about providing a framework to protect our infrastructure.”

Canadian telecom companies have managed the uncertainty by working with Sweden’s Ericsson, Finland’s Nokia and South Korea’s Samsung to help them build their 5G networks.

Rogers Communications, which partners with Ericsson, said Thursday’s decision would not affect its plans.

Even so, federal policy prohibits the use of new 5G equipment and managed services from Huawei and ZTE. Existing 5G equipment or services must be removed or terminated by June 28, 2024.

Any use of new 4G equipment and managed services from both companies will also be prohibited, with existing equipment to be retired by December 31, 2027.

Champagne said the federal government will not compensate companies that must remove equipment from their networks.

The government plans to introduce legislation soon to formally implement the measures.

Alykhan Velshi, vice president of corporate affairs at Huawei Canada, said the government wanted a headline indicating that it had banned the company from 5G.

“I think they got that title,” he said.

“But that hasn’t changed the fact that there is still a large amount of Huawei equipment in the network now, there will be for the foreseeable future, and the mechanism by which they propose to implement this ban. is a piece of legislation that not only has not been passed, it has not even been introduced.”

On Thursday, the Conservatives criticized the Liberals for taking so long.

“Justin Trudeau’s delay in banning Huawei has damaged our allies’ confidence in Canada as a reliable ally and undermined public confidence that this government will defend the national interest,” they said. said Tory MPs Raquel Dancho and Gerard Deltell in a written statement.

New Democrats also said it was long overdue.

“During this time, the domestic telecom market has also been severely impacted as they have been left in the dark about the future of 5G in Canada,” said NDP Innovation Critic, Brian Masse, in a written statement.

Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said Thursday the Liberals would introduce additional legislation to protect critical infrastructure in finance, telecommunications, energy and transportation.

“This new legislation will establish a framework to better protect systems vital to our national security and give the government a new tool to respond to emerging cyber threats.”

Many believe the government delayed its 5G decision because of the dispute over the jailing of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig in China following the RCMP arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou.

The two Canadians were arrested, jailed, charged and ultimately convicted of espionage in apparent connection to Meng’s arrest on December 1, 2018, on a US extradition warrant. The Liberal government was clearly not interested in making a 5G decision that would anger Beijing and create additional risk for the two men.

Meanwhile, the Trudeau government clung to the talking point that it was involved in a comprehensive 5G security review that crossed departmental lines from Public Safety Canada to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, the Center for telecommunications security, Global Affairs Canada and Innovation, Science and Economic Development. Throughout, the government has maintained that the safety and security of Canadians is its primary concern.

Kovrig and Spavor remained in separate Chinese prisons until September 24, 2021, when a US-brokered deal led to their release after the US Justice Department dropped its extradition case against Meng. . She returned to China from Vancouver the same day Kovrig and Spavor were released. Their respective planes took off at literally the same time.

Throughout the case, the Trudeau government had come under pressure from the Trump administration to ban Huawei because it viewed the Chinese company as a threat to US national security. The Obama administration first flagged the company as a security risk more than a decade ago. Biden has maintained his country’s aggressive stance toward China.

In 2017, the Donald Trump administration flagged China’s National Intelligence Act as a major 5G security issue, saying it would allow China’s communist leaders to compel companies such as Huawei to conduct cyber espionage on Beijing’s behalf. . Security concerns included allegations that Huawei equipment contained so-called backdoors that could give Beijing the ability to interfere in the US power grid, banking system or other key infrastructure.

Huawei and the Chinese government have strenuously denied the charges, saying the company poses no security threat. They argued that the United States was simply trying to stop the rise of China’s top telecommunications company.

Trump has lobbied key US allies to ban Huawei.

Britain banned Huawei in stages. In January 2020, he allowed Huawei partial access to its 5G network, but said he still considered the Chinese telecommunications company a security risk requiring attention.

The US tightened the screw in May 2020 when the Trump administration blocked non-US companies from using US components, including processor chips, in Huawei products without US approval.

In July 2020, Britain chose to bar Huawei from its network, saying US sanctions made it impossible to ensure the security of equipment supplied by China.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on May 19, 2022.

— With files from Mike Blanchfield and Mia Rabson

Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press

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