Kris Faafoi has not ruled out barring controversial Chinese telco Huawei from building New Zealand’s 5G network.
The Communications Minister’s comments came after Australian spy chief Mike Burgess said his country’s electricity grid and water supplies would not have been adequately protected had Huawei or ZTE, another Chinese firm, been allowed to build the country’s 5G networks.
Burgess advised his government to exclude “high risk vendors” from the entirety of 5G networks, reported the ABC.
“A potential threat anywhere in the network is a threat to the whole network,” he said.
Huawei is nominally a private company but is seen by many international observers, including our Five Eyes partners, as being connected to the Chinese military and vulnerable to being used to place spying devices into the core of networks overseas. The US have also banned Huawei from being involved in their 5G rollouts.
The UK did not ban Huawei but established a National Cyber Security Centre to monitor possible security breaches. However this approach did not appear to have worked. In July it said that it was “less confident.” It can provide “long-term technical assurance of sufficient scope and quality around Huawei in the UK” because of the “repeated discovery of critical shortfalls”.
Huawei’s technology is currently used on the fringes of the 4G network. Spark and 2 Degrees make extensive use of their mobile base stations, but the 5G rollout could mean Huawei becomes the core of the network.
Our way or the Huawei
Faafoi said that companies had approached him saying they would like to use Huawei’s technology, but he said New Zealand could ultimately follow Australia in barring the company from contracts relating to crucial infrastructure.
“We’re obviously cognisant of the concerns the Australian authorities have had. It’s a pretty crucial piece of infrastructure for the future of the mobile network,” Faafoi said.
As the time drew closer to make a decision the Government would be presented with “options”, he said.
“One of those might be similar to what the Australians have done.”
Faafoi also said he would consult with security services before making a decision if any serious concerns are raised.
By Thomas Coughlan
Thomas Coughlan is a Newsroom reporter based in Wellington who writes on policy and economics.
This article first appeared on Newsroom