Huawei and ZTE Banned from Australian 5G Deployments

Continuing a trend in the English speaking world, Huawei and ZTE have been banned from providing wireless network technology for Australia’s 5G rollouts.  In a tweet, Huawei said it has been informed of the ban by the Australian government.  The Trump administration. recently banned U.S. government agencies or contractors from using most equipment provided by Huawei and ZTE and also banned the sale of mobile phones from those Chinese companies.

“This is an extremely disappointing result for consumers. Huawei is a world leader in 5G. Has safely and securely delivered wireless technology in Australia for close to 15 years,” Huawei wrote in its tweet.

The confirmation of the ban came after Australian minister for communications Mitch Fifield and treasurer and acting minister for home affairs Scott Morrison revealed in a joint statement that the government has provided “5G security guidance to Australian carriers.”   The Australian ministers have invoked the Telecommunications Sector Security Reforms (TSSR) obligations that among other things empower the government to compel operators to protect their networks against threats to national security.

While their statement did not mention any vendors by name, the ministers said that “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 unauthorized access or interference.”

To justify banning Huawei and ZTE from their involvement in 5G rollouts despite their prominent roles in the deployments of 3G and 4G networks, the ministers said that 5G will require a network architecture that is significantly different from previous mobile generations.

“Where previous mobile networks featured clear functional divisions between the core and the edge, 5G is designed so that sensitive functions currently performed in the physically and logically separated core will gradually move closer to the edge of the network,” they said.

“This new architecture provides a way to circumvent traditional security controls by exploiting equipment in the edge of the network – exploitation which may affect overall network integrity and availability, as well as the confidentiality of customer data… Government has found no combination of technical security controls that sufficiently mitigate the risks.”

The Australian government has been rumored for some time to be considering banning Huawei 5G rollouts.  However, due in part to the absence of evidence of any national security threat, some experts believe the ban is more motivated by politics than national security.

Huawei was also previously banned from providing equipment for the rollout of Australia’s National Broadband Network (NBN).  Meanwhile, the U.S. has warned Canada about purchasing network equipment from Huawei and ZTE.