Chinese vendor Huawei has refuted claims from an Australian politician that the company poses a national security risk and should be excluded from the Australian 5G market.
Member of parliament Michael Danby, a member of the in-opposition Labor party, last week called on prime minister Malcolm Turnbull to bar both Huawei and ZTE from the market.
But the politician appeared to be unsure of what Huawei and ZTE even do, as he told parliament that “Australia's 5G network must not be sold to these telcos,” and talked about “the implications of the sale of the 5G network to state-owned enterprises or China-based companies who are effectively controlled by Beijing.”
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Danby appears to have been laboring under the assumption that the vendors are operators and that they are seeking to buy non-existent 5G assets rather than sell their equipment to operators. So on the surface the politician's comments should not be cause for much concern among Huawei and ZTE.
But there are complications which may give the vendors pause for thought. Most notably, Huawei was banned from participating in Australia's National Broadband Network project by then communications minister and current prime minister Malcolm Turnbull.
Australia is also strongly aligned with the US on national security efforts and is likely to be closely following the US government's recent crackdown on using equipment from the Chinese vendors.
Indeed, the ban on the vendors' participation in the NBN was partly motivated by a US government directive restricting the use of Chinese telecoms equipment by government departments.
But in an interview with Australian national broadcaster ABC, Huawei Australia chairman John Lord moved to correct the misconceptions and attempt to reassure the public about the integrity of its equipment.
He noted that Huawei is owned by its employees and not the Chinese government, is already a major supplier of equipment for Australia's 3G and 4G networks and fully complies with the laws of each of the 170 countries it operates in.
Lord acknowledged that a ban on participating in Australia's 5G market would be a significant blow to the vendor's local operations.