Canada has banned Chinese telecom giants Huawei and ZTE from accessing its 5G wireless networks due to national security concerns, officials said Thursday.
The long-awaited move follows in the footsteps of the United States and other key allies and comes after a diplomatic dispute between Ottawa and Beijing over the detention of a senior Huawei leader under a U.S. warrant that has now been resolved.
The United States warns of security implications if Chinese technology companies have access to telecommunications infrastructure that could be used for government espionage.
Both Huawei and Beijing have denied the allegations, while Beijing has warned of consequences for countries imposing restrictions on telecommunications equipment suppliers.
The company did not immediately respond to an AFP request for comment regarding Canada’s ban.
This was stated at a press conference by the Minister of Industry of Canada Francois-Philippe Champagne and the Minister of Public Security Marco Mendisin.
“Today we announce our intention to ban the inclusion of Huawei and ZTE products and services in Canada’s telecommunications systems,” Champagne said.
“This is after a full review by our security services and in consultation with our closest allies.”
Canada has been reviewing 5G technology and network access for several years, repeatedly postponing the decision, which was first expected in 2019.
He remained silent on telecommunications issues after China imprisoned two Canadians – diplomat Michael Cowrieg and businessman Michael Spower – in retaliation for the December 2018 arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver at the request of the United States.
All three were released in September 2021 after Maine agreed with the U.S. Attorney on charges of fraud, ending the fight for extradition.
Champagne said Canadian telecommunications companies “will not be allowed to include in their networks products or services that threaten our national security.”
“Suppliers who already have this equipment installed will have to stop using it and remove it,” he said.
Huawei is already supplying some Canadian telecommunications firms with 4G equipment.
Most, if not all, have abandoned the use of Huawei in their fifth-generation (5G) wireless networks, which provide faster Internet connections with higher data capacity, or turned to other providers while Ottawa is interested.
Mendisina said 5G innovations “represent a great opportunity for competition and growth” but also have risks.
“There are a lot of hostile actors who are willing to exploit vulnerabilities” in telecommunications networks, he said.
The United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Japan and Sweden have already blocked or restricted the use of Huawei technology in their 5G networks.
The U.S. government considers Huawei a potential security threat because of the origins of its founder and CEO Zhen Zhengfei, a former Chinese military engineer who is Meng’s father.
Concerns were heightened when Huawei became a world leader in telecommunications networking equipment and a leading smartphone maker following Beijing’s adoption in 2017 of a law requiring Chinese companies to assist the government in national security issues.
It is reported that two Canadian spy agencies initially split over whether to ban Huawei in Canadian 5G networks. One advocated a ban and the other argued that the risks could be mitigated.
The Canadian Security Intelligence and Security Communications Service has been tasked with conducting a cybersecurity review to assess the risks as well as the economic costs to Canadian telecommunications and consumers blacklisted by the equipment vendor.
Huawei has already been banned from bidding on Canadian government contracts and network core equipment such as routers and switches.