Canada announced yesterday that it plans to ban the use of 5G equipment by Chinese Huawei Technologies and ZTE to protect national security, following the example of the other countries of the “Five Eyes” intelligence alliance.
“We intend to exclude Huawei and ZTE from our 5G networks,” Industry Minister François-Philippe Sampan told reporters in Ottawa. “Providers who already have this equipment installed will be asked to stop using it and remove it based on the plans we are announcing.”
Champagne added that companies that will be called upon to cover their 5G equipment by June 2024 will not be compensated. Companies using their 4G equipment must make these changes by the end of 2027.
The decision – largely expected – was delayed amid diplomatic contacts with China. The rest of the Five Eyes network – which includes Canada, the United States, Britain, Australia and New Zealand – have already banned the equipment.
In September 2018, Canada initially announced that it would reconsider potential national security threats regarding the adoption of Huawei equipment.
Then in December of that year, Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wangzhou was arrested in Canada at the request of the United States, leading to a long-running dispute with China that was finally settled last September with Meng’s release. Following Meng’s arrest, two Canadians were arrested in Beijing and charged with espionage. The two men were released on the same day as Meng.
Now, diplomatic tensions between China and Canada have eased somewhat. On Wednesday, China lifted a three-year ban on oilseed rape imports from Canada, reversing what was seen as retaliation for Meng’s arrest.
Yesterday’s decision came after telecommunications companies in Canada had already decided to use other companies’ equipment.
China has expressed opposition to the decision. “We will take all necessary measures to protect the legitimate interests of Chinese companies,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told reporters in Beijing today.
A spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Canada said the alleged security concerns were a “pretext for political manipulation” and accused Canada of working with the United States to crack down on Chinese companies.
Alican Wells, Huawei’s vice president of corporate affairs in Canada, said in an interview with Canadian Broadcasting Corp that the company was still waiting to hear “what kind of national security threats do they think Huawei poses”.
Wales said Huawei still has 1,500 employees in Canada, mainly in research and development, and that it sells products such as mobile phones, something it will continue to do.