Huawei faces 5G ban in Australia over security concerns

Having already been shut out from the country’s National Broadband Network, as well as getting the cold shoulder from tier one operators, the prospect of being locked out of the 5G euphoria in Australia is getting real for Huawei.

With the anti-China sentiment overflowing from the US, other countries are now starting to catch the bug, though there should be little surprise Huawei is facing challenges in the Australian market, having done so since 2012. John Lord, Chairman of Huawei’s Australian business, has now warned about the detrimental effect to local businesses and competition in the market, though whether the company has done enough to turn around the negative feeling is looking suspect.

According to the FT, Lord has rejected claims it is a puppet for the Chinese government, and highlighted the importance of the company for 4G and delivering mobile broadband across the country.

“It would have huge significance for Huawei in Australia because at the moment most of our business is 4G and we are providing over 55% of Australia’s 4G requirement across the whole nation,” said Lord.

Anti-China sentiment, in particular Huawei, is not new in Australia as the firm has faced an uphill battle for years. Back in 2012, Huawei was told “not to bother tendering” for a stake in the rollout of the National Broadband Network by Tony Sheehan, Deputy Secretary of the Attorney-General’s Department, over security concerns. The firm had offered concessions, one of which would be Huawei would only hire Australian citizens, though this made little difference.

Despite being almost entirely owned by Huawei employees, the firm has not been able to shake-off assumed ties to the Chinese government, owing to the fact it’s its Founder, Ren Zhengfei, was once an officer in the People’s Liberation Army. Reports have regularly emerged over the years tying Huawei to nefarious ambitions from the Chinese government, however these concerns have certainly intensified since President Trump assumed office in 2017.

Labor Party MP Michael Danly is the man leading the campaign against not only Huawei, but also ZTE this time around. Speaking to the Australian Parliament, Danly said Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull should take the same approach as in 2012:

“Now he [Turnbull] and his government must resist the blandishments of commercial interests backed by apparently incompetent advice from bureaucrats who don’t understand the implications of the sale of the 5G network to state-owned enterprises or China-based companies who are effectively controlled by Beijing, and I’m talking about Huawei and ZTE.

“Whatever instructions might be issued for Australian sovereignty by Australia after the fact, it will be compromised if we sell the construction of our new central communications 5G network to companies effectively controlled by an authoritarian government whose leader has recently been made dictator for life.”

The US might be stealing the headlines with its anti-China mission, but there are certainly others who are showing the same prejudice. Perhaps this is simply a game of political ping-pong with nations becoming frustrated with the rigid approach to international relations and trade from the Chinese, and once concessions are made the aggression towards Huawei will ease off. But then again maybe is won’t and the world’s leading telecoms vendor will struggle to replicate the 4G success in the 5G world.