Huawei’s Australian 5G Ambitions Are Dead

Huawei’s Australian 5G Ambitions Are Dead
Image: Getty Images

In 2018 the Turnbull government announced Chinese vendors would be banned from supplying technology to 5G networks in Australia. While no companies were specifically named, it was clear Huawei and ZTE were the primary targets.

Over the following 18 months Huawei was vocal about its belief this was a mistake. But now it seems the company has given up the fight.

Andy Purdy, Huawei’s chief security officer in the U.S. revealed to the Sydney Morning Herald the company isn’t currently trying to reverse its 5G ban in Australia.

“We are not trying right now to get the government to change their mind. We are trying to emphasise: block Huawei if you must but it’s really important to do what’s necessary to make Australia safer and there’s a lot of stuff not being done,” Purdy said in an interview.

Purdy told the SMH Huawei was “not trying to win that battle [with the Australian government] anytime soon”. Instead, it is taking the cyber security route in the hope this may enable Huawei to work more closely with Australia again in the future.

Purdy even targeted China itself in his commentary and went on to say European 5G technology providers have equipment that is pricier but lower quality than Huawei’s offerings.

“Ask the experts what’s being done to address the risk that China will hack into Nokia and Ericsson’s products and be able to launch attacks inside Australia? What’s being done about that?”

Andy Purdy is currently in Australia for a series of ‘Town Hall Meetings’ that have been planned by Huawei to try and repair its image with the general public. Gizmodo Australia has reached out to Huawei for comment regarding its position on 5G in Australia.


Why Huawei Was Banned From 5G In Australia

Huawei and ZTE were banned from Australian 5G networks in August 2018, with security cited as the primary reason by the government.

“The Government considers that the involvement of vendors who are likely to be subject to extrajudicial directions from a foreign government that conflict with Australian law, may risk failure by the carrier to adequately protect a 5G network from unauthorised access or interference,” said Senator Mitch Fifield and the then-acting Minister for Home Affairs Scott Morrison in a joint press release in 2018.

This was believed to be in reference to China’s lack of independent judiciary and its National Intelligence Law, which enables its government to monitor and investigate institutions and individuals in and outside of China.

Australian Government Bans Huawei And ZTE From 5G

Today it was announced that Huawei and ZTE will be banned from supplying 5G technology to Australia. This comes after months of discussions and investigation regarding the inclusions of Chinese vendors in 5G networks -- including Huawei rejecting the claim that it would be a security risk back in June.

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The release also highlighted a belief that Australian 5G networks would be more vulnerable to attacks than its predecessors.

Huawei was quick to respond at the time, stating its disappointment with the decision on social media.

Since then, the company seems to have been on a mission to prove that its 5G technology is not only safe, but a necessity for Australian 5G networks. It has utilised press releases, social media and talks to make this case repeatedly since 2018.

This continued in 2019, with Huawei submitting a parliamentary enquiry that was published in November. But this attempt failed to move the government.

“Let’s be clear. That position is well established and there won’t be any change to that,” said Communications Minister Paul Fletcher to the ABC.


How the Huawei 5G ban impacted Australia

The decision to ban Huawei from Australia’s 5G networks resulted in TPG having to abandon its independent 5G rollout plans in January 2019. This cost the company $100 million in capital expenditure, as well as an additional $30 million that had been spent on the rollout.

Vodafone was also utilising Huawei technology for its own 5G network before the ban. The switch resulted in a delay after finding a new technology partner in Nokia. Fortunately for TPG, its merger plans with Vodafone have been successful and the ACCC will not appeal the decision.

TPG Cans Mobile Network, Blames Huawei Ban

In 2017 TPG announced this it would be launching a $600 million mobile network. The plan was to have Huawei as its primary equipment provider - a decision that was complicated last year when the Federal Government banned the Chinese vendor from selling 5G equipment in Australia. Now TPG has decided to cease its mobile rollout, naming the ban as the reason.

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Although Andy Purdy’s comments to the Sydney Morning Herald indicate that Huawei has given up on 5G in Australia, Huawei may not have thrown in the towel entirely. CEO of Huawei Australia Hudson Lieu issued a press release titled Getting the facts Straight on Huawei on the same day the article was published.

The release talks about the evolution of Huawei over the past twenty years to now and alleged information that has circulated about the company over the past two years. It touches on the 5G technology blocking, as well as the trade ban imposed by the U.S. in 2019 which resulted in its latest flagship phone being launched in Australia without Google or other American-owned apps.

“Up until the 5G ban here in Australia and then the US actions against Huawei not many people knew our company, now we are one of the most famous companies in the world. We wish we could return to simpler times when we were not always in the headlines but that may not happen for a while but all we ask of people is that as the debate around Huawei continues that it is based on facts, hopefully that is not too much to ask,” said Lieu.

[SMH]

Australian Government Bans Huawei And ZTE From 5G

Today it was announced that Huawei and ZTE will be banned from supplying 5G technology to Australia. This comes after months of discussions and investigation regarding the inclusions of Chinese vendors in 5G networks -- including Huawei rejecting the claim that it would be a security risk back in June.

Read more