Canada bans Huawei, ZTE in 5G networks

Ottawa government’s move follows similar bans in other English-speaking countries, citing potential security risks to 5G communications networks.

CSO slideshow - Insider Security Breaches - Flag of China, binary code
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Canada is the latest country to ban Huawei and ZTE equipment from use in the telecommunications field generally and 5G networks in particular, as the government's announcement this week detailed its intention to introduce a broad, new telecom security framework.

Canadian telecom companies are to be barred officially from buying new Huawei or ZTE equipment as of September of this year, according to the government's policy statement Thursday. Canada will also mandate the removal of all Huawei and ZTE gear from 5G networks by June 28, 2024, as well as the removal of all those companies' 4G/LTE equipment by the end of 2027.

This means that, like the US, Canada's move to ban certain Chinese networking gear extends to equipment already in use, so that telecom companies that have bought such gear will need to replace it. It's unclear from the announcement whether Canada will follow the US' lead in providing financial assistance to companies working to rid their networks of banned equipment, although the statement did say that the government plans to "engage with industry" in order to make sure that logistical considerations for gear replacement are taken into account.

Ultimately, however, Canada's focus is on removing potentially dangerous gear from the country's most important communications networks.

"The Government of Canada has serious concerns about suppliers such as Huawei and ZTE who could be compelled to comply with extrajudicial directions from foreign governments in ways that would conflict with Canadian laws or would be detrimental to Canadian interests," the statement read in part.

Canada joins the rest of the Five Eyes countries — the US, UK, Australia and New Zealand — in implementing this type of telecom equipment ban. Concerns about potentially compromised networks first surfaced in relation to Chinese-built equipment roughly a decade ago. The US House Intelligence Committee's October 2012 report warned businesses that Huawei and ZTE equipment posed a security threat due to the unclear nature of those companies' links with China's governing Communist Party, and various measures to restrict or ban their equipment have taken effect since then.

Huawei and ZTE continue to contest the West's characterization of their equipment as unsafe, insisting that fears of compromise by the Beijing government are unrealistic, and the Chinese government itself slammed Canada's ban in a press conference Friday, with foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin saying that the evidence of security risks is vague and pretextual.

"This move violates the market economy principle and free trade rules and severely harms the Chinese companies' legitimate rights and interests," said Wang.

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