Canada has decided to exclude Huawei and ZTE from its 5G networks, citing national security concerns, following in the footsteps of the so-called Five Eyes intelligence-sharing network. The decision has been postponed for nearly four years due to diplomatic tensions with China. The rest of the Five Eyes network – the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand – have already banned the equipment, citing links between the company and the Chinese government. Germany and Spain, for example, have begun to take similar steps. Huawei has always maintained its independence and has denied these allegations.
“We intend to exclude Huawei and ZTE from our 5G networks,” said Canada’s Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne. “Providers who already have this equipment installed will be required to cease its use and remove it under the plans we’re announcing today.”
Champagne also stated that businesses will be required to remove their 5G equipment by June 2024 and will not be reimbursed. Companies that use Huawei 4G equipment must be decommissioned by the end of 2027. The Chinese authorities were not pleased with the decision, with Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin telling reporters that China would take “all necessary measures” to protect the legitimate interests of Chinese firms.
The first indications of Canada’s stance against Chinese telecom behemoths came in September 2018, when the country announced it would assess the potential threats to national security posed by Huawei equipment. Later that year, Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Canada on a US warrant, sparking a long-running dispute with China that ended last September with Meng’s release and the lifting of a three-year ban on Canadian canola seed imports this week.
According to a spokesperson for China’s embassy in Canada, the alleged security concerns are a “pretext for political manipulation,” and Canada is collaborating with the US to suppress Chinese firms. Over the years, Canadian telecom companies have spent nearly C$700 million (approximately £437 million) on Huawei equipment, primarily 4G or LTE equipment. Huawei also has 1,500 employees in Canada, mostly in R&D, and plans to continue selling products such as mobile phones in the country.
“We’re disappointed but not surprised. We’re surprised it took the government so long to make a decision,” Huawei spokesman Alykhan Velshi said in an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. “We see this as a political decision, one born of political pressure primarily from the United States.”
Bell Canada and rival Telus Corp, two of Canada’s largest wireless providers, teamed up with Sweden’s Ericsson and Finland’s Nokia Oyj in 2020 to build 5G telecoms networks, bypassing Huawei despite using Huawei 4G equipment. Along with the ban, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino announced that Canada would draught new legislation to protect critical financial, telecommunications, energy, and transportation infrastructure from cyber threats.