Mike Burgess, director-general of the Australian Signals Directorate, has explained why the country must restrict foreign firms with government ties from its 5G mobile networkbecause it is critical infrastructure.
The head of one of the intelligence agencies in Australia, explaining the need to block foreign technology companies from bidding for 5G equipment supply, did not mention about China’s Huawei or ZTE, Reuters reported.
Australia expanded its security rules in August this year to exclude telecom equipment suppliers that it believes have ties to foreign governments. Huawei said after the policy announcement that it would be prohibited from Australia’s new broadband network for offering 5G services.
Since Huawei is the world’s number one telecom network equipment supplier, any ban on its supplies would impact its revenue from telecom network business. Analysts say Huawei will be facing pressure in other telecom markets as well if the company cannot explain its relationship with the China Government.
“5G technology will underpin the communications that Australians rely on every day, from our health systems and the potential applications of remote surgery, to self-driving cars and through to the operation of our power and water supply,” Mike Burgess said in rare public comments late on Monday.
Huawei has previously denied any link with the Chinese government.
Huawei had offered Canberra access to its technology to satisfy security concerns, while it also argued the company structure hadn’t changed since it was allowed to supply equipment to Australia’s 4G network.
Why 5G is different
Burgess said the 5G network requires different rules.
“We protected the sensitive information and functions at the core of our telecommunications networks by confining our high-risk tech vendors to the edge of our networks. The distinction between core and edge collapses in 5G networks,” he said.
Western intelligence agencies have raised concerns for years that Huawei, the world’s largest maker of telecommunications network gear, is beholden to the Chinese government, raising the risk of espionage.
The United States in August restricted access for Huawei and smaller rival ZTE to its lucrative market for similar reasons.
Australia previously banned Huawei from providing equipment for its fiber-optic network and moved to block it from laying submarine cables in the Pacific.
Telecom industry association GSMA says Australia will be one of the key 5G markets in the Asia Pacific region.
This means that Huawei Technologies will be under pressure to sign big 5G contracts in other markets. Huawei missed a big opportunity when T-Mobile US selected Nokia and Ericsson for its nationwide 5G infrastructure.
SK Telecom, a leading telecom service provider in Korea, did not select Huawei and ZTE for its 5G roll out in 2019. SK Telecom selected Samsung, Ericsson and Nokia for the 5G equipment deal. – Telecom Lead