Huawei, ZTE face ban in Canada over national security, country joins Five Eyes intelligence sharing network

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Canada on Thursday said it plans to ban the use of China’s Huawei and ZTE 5G devices to protect national security, joining the rest of the so-called Five Eyes network in sharing information.

“We intend to exclude Huawei and ZTE from our 5G networks,” Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne told reporters in Ottawa. “Vendors who already have this equipment installed must stop using it and remove it per the plans we are announcing today.”

Champagne added that companies would have to remove their 5G equipment by June 2024 and would not be reimbursed. Businesses using their 4G devices must be removed by the end of 2027.

The – generally expected – decision had been delayed due to diplomatic tensions with China. The rest of the Five Eyes network – which consists of Canada, the United States, the UK, Australia and New Zealand – have already banned the gear.

In September 2018, Canada announced for the first time that it would study the possible threats to national security in the introduction of Huawei devices.

Then, in December of the same year, Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer, was arrested in Canada on a US warrant, sparking a long-running dispute with China that eventually ended with Meng’s release last September.

After Meng’s arrest, two Canadians were arrested by Beijing and accused of espionage. The two men were released on the same day as Meng.

Now, diplomatic tensions between China and Canada have eased somewhat. On Wednesday, China lifted a three-year import ban on Canadian canola seed, lifting what was seen as retaliation for Meng’s arrest.

Thursday’s decision comes after telecom companies in Canada have already opted to use other companies’ 5G hardware.

A spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Canada said the alleged security concerns were a “pretext for political manipulation” and accused Canada of colluding with the United States to suppress Chinese companies.

Alykhan Velshi, Huawei’s vice president of corporate affairs in Canada, said in an interview with Canadian Broadcasting Corp that the company is still waiting to hear “what kind of national security threats it thinks Huawei poses.”

Velshi said that Huawei still has 1,500 employees in Canada, mainly in research and development, and sells products such as mobile phones and will continue to do so.

ZTE did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In 2020, Bell Canada and competitor Telus – two of the largest mobile operators – joined forces with Sweden’s Ericsson and Finland’s Nokia Oyj to build fifth-generation (5G) telecoms networks, leaving Huawei despite using Huawei 4G devices for the project fall.

In addition to the ban, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said Canada will draft new laws to protect critical financial, telecommunications, energy and transportation infrastructure from cyber threats.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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