China blocked from building 5G networks in Australia

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Telcos around the world are in a race to bring 5G to consumers.


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China has faced another setback in its bid to become a global telecommunications powerhouse, after the Australian government effectively blocked Chinese carriers from building Australia’s 5G network due to national security concerns.

The decision could have broader ramifications in countries such as the United States, where President Donald Trump has proposed building a nationalised 5G network free of overseas interference in order to maintain telecommunications security.

While governments around the world gear up for the new technological era of 5G (think driverless cars, remote surgery and wide-scale connectivity), they’re also preparing for the national security concerns it brings. President Trump’s US-built 5G network, reportedly proposed by his National Security Council — would attempt to counter security concerns, such as the threat of Chinese spying on US mobile devices.

While concerns about national security have swirled around 5G, Australia has now acted decisively, announcing on Thursday it was tightening the involvement of “third party vendors in 5G networks” in a bid to manage national security.

“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,” the joint statement from the Department of Home Affairs and the Department of Communications read.

While China was not mentioned specifically, the announcement reflects the long-awaited decision by the Australian government on the involvement of the communist country in building Australia’s communications infrastructure.


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The presence of companies such as Huawei and ZTE in Australia has long been a political sticking point. Huawei was banned from involvement in building Australia’s National Broadband Network, and the country’s Department of Defence has moved to distance itself from Chinese carriers, quietly phasing out Huawei and ZTE handsets among staff.

Australia is not alone. In May, ZTE revealed it was facing a seven-year ban in the US (albeit one President Trump later said should be reversed) while in the UK, the British government has raised security concerns about the use of Huawei equipment in Britain’s telecom networks.

In a statement to ZDNet, Huawei labelled the Australian government’s most recent decision as “extremely disappointing” adding that it had “safely and securely delivered wireless technology in Australia for close to 15 years.”

Huawei did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

ZTE declined to comment.

Editor’s Note: Federal Minister for Communications Mitch Fifield was unavailable for comment, having tendered his resignation from the role an hour after Thursday’s announcement was released. Federal treasurer Scott Morrison assumed interim responsibility for Department of Home Affairs on Tuesday, after former Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton announced his resignation in order to challenge Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull for the leadership of the country. At the time of writing, treasurer Scott Morrison was also understood to be challenging for the leadership and the position of Minister for Communications was vacant.

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