Chinese technology company Huawei Technologies, the company that has won several contracts to supply equipment for the UFB build in New Zealand, has been banned from participating in the equivalent project in Australia, with authorities citing concerns about cyber-attacks originating from the company’s homeland.
As first reported by the Australian Financial Review, the company was told by the department of the Federal Attorney General late last year not to bid for a role in the National Broadband Network (NBN) build, because any bids the company made would fail.
The move was made on advice from ASIO, Australia’s national security intelligence service, due to concerns Huawei’s involvement in the build could leave the major piece of infrastructure vulnerable to attack from within China.
Justifying the decision, Attorney General Nicola Rixon told the AFR that the NBN is ‘a strategic and significant government investment’, and the government has a responsibility to protect it.
Although it hasn’t yet signed with major New Zealand network builder Chorus, Huawei will supply technology to smaller builders Enable Services and Ultrafast Fibre. The company has also been linked with plans for a new trans-Tasman fibre cable, and is involved in seven other fibre network builds around the world, including one in the UK.
Notably, though, Huawei has had trouble setting up in the United States.
Although the company’s founder and CEO Ren Zhengfei is a former engineer in the People’s Liberation Army, Huawei has repeatedly denied any connection between themselves and the Chinese authorities.
In June last year, Huawei Australia became the first of the company’s local divisions to create its own board of directors; this board now includes former foreign minister Alexander Downer, former Victorian premier John Brumby, and retired rear admiral John Lord, as chairman.
A delegation of Huawei technology experts visited New Zealand just last week to inspect our technology and make a ‘commercial assessment’ of collaboration opportunities. The trip was a joint project between Huawei New Zealand, New Zealand Trade & Enterprise (NZTE), and NZICT.
Update: Huawei has issued a statement expounding its success around the world and saying the move by the Australian government to block the company from participating in its NBN broadband project is a sign of people still coming to grips with 'the new China'.
"Huawei’s track record speaks for itself," the statement reads.
"Huawei is building 8 of the 9 global NBN-style networks. Huawei partners with every major operator in Australia and 45 of the world’s top 50 operators... you don’t get to that level of success unless you have customers that trust your company, your staff and your technology.
"Individuals and governments around the world are still coming to grips with the emergence of the new China, which is an innovation leader. As China’s largest private company, Huawei is at the forefront of that... while network security is an issue for all vendors, the real risk is missing out on the innovation China has to offer."