Australia became the third country after US and UK to have officially raised concern against Huawei and taken some sort of action.
Indian security agencies are “closely watching” the recent developments in Australia which had, earlier this week, banned Chinese telecom giant Huawei from participating in the 5G rollout in the island country. The decision was guided by strong evidence that sensitive data could be handed over to the Chinese authorities by the telecom company.
“It is an action taken by a responsible government after considering many things. We are following the developments at our level very minutely as Huawei has a very large operations in India and it is going to play a major role in the 5G rollout,” said a senior official at a security establishment in Delhi.
In what would herald the 5G era in the country, India is slated to begin the process of 5G spectrum auction early next year, sources said. Earlier in February, Bharti Airtel and Huawei successfully conducted India’s first 5G network trial under a test setup at Bharti’s network experience centre in Manesar, Gurgaon.
While banning Huawei, the Australian government said: “companies that are likely to be subject to extrajudicial directions from a foreign government that conflict with Australian law wouldn’t be able to guarantee security of the network”.
Australia became the third country after US and UK who have officially raised concern against Huawei and taken some sort of action. All these three countries have in the past expressed their concerns about the massive cyber attacks targeting them—these attacks had originated from China. Earlier this week, a report prepared by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, headed by Ravi Shankar Prasad, had stated that the maximum number of cyber attacks on official Indian websites had been coming from China, US and Russia. The report was sent to the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS), a body which advises the Prime Minister’s Office on matters of national security and strategic interest.
The report, prepared by the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In), which comes under the ministry, analysed cyber attacks from April-June 2018. According to the report, “The cyber attacks from China made up 35% of the total number of cyber attacks on official Indian websites, followed by US (17%), Russia (15%), Pakistan (9%), Canada (7%) and Germany (5%)”.
Huawei, on its part, has repeatedly dismissed the security concerns, insisting that it is a private company owned by employees and does not have any government shareholders. Industry insiders tracking the development said that the company was in the advanced stage of talks with the department of telecom regarding the roll out of 5G in India and its officials were regularly meeting government representatives. Sources said a meeting was held last week, and that the Australian government’s decision was not going to impact its operations in India.
This is not the first time that Huawei has come under scrutiny from Australia. In 2012, it was blocked from bidding for laying the network for Australian bank.
The recent order has not just banned Huawei but it has also proscribed another Chinese tech firm ZTE from providing 5G technology. ZTE’s controlling shareholder is Shenzhen Zhongxingxin Telecommunications Equipment, which is a Chinese state-owned corporation.
Officials in the Indian security establishment recalled that in 2009 the then UPA government had barred BSNL from procuring gear from Huawei and ZTE, citing apprehension that these could be embedded with a spy gear. However, the ban was lifted within a few months and in August 2010, a couple of Indian private telecom companies were given permission to buy equipment from the two Chinese companies. Officials believe that more than 60% of the software and hardware related to telecom being used in India, including by the state managed BSNL, is either manufactured by Huawei or by ZTE.
A team of officials from Department of Telecom (DoT) are slated to go to China and to Huawei’s office in November this year to train themselves for the upcoming “challenges”. A similar trip was taken up by the ministry officials in October last year, sources said.
The training course is being organised by Thailand-based intergovernmental organisation, Asia-Pacific Telecommunity (APT), which is supported massively by telecom giants.
Statement from Huawei
* The Australian government’s decision to block Huawei from Australia’s 5G market is politically motivated, not the result of a fact-based, transparent, or equitable decision-making process. It is not aligned with the long-term interests of the Australian people, and denies Australian businesses and consumers the right to choose from the best communications technology available. A non-competitive market will raise the cost of network construction and [will] have lasting effects on Australia’s transition to a digital economy. In the end, everyday businesses and consumers are the ones who will suffer the most from the government’s actions.
* Huawei is one of the core developers behind 5G. The Australian government recognizes the massive benefits that 5G technology will bring to Australia’s economy, and yet it has restricted the use of Huawei’s technology Innovation works because innovators are rewarded for their work, but the government has effectively denied Huawei a right to compete for a return on our investment.
* Interpreting Chinese law should be left to qualified and impartial legal experts. Huawei has presented the Australian government with an independent, third-party expert analysis of the Chinese laws in question: Chinese law does not grant government the authority to compel telecommunications firms to install backdoors or listening devices, or engage in any behavior that might compromise the telecommunications equipment of other nations. A mistaken and narrow understanding of Chinese law should not serve as the basis for concerns about Huawei’s business. Huawei has never been asked to engage in intelligence work on behalf of any government.
* There is no fundamental difference between 5G and 4G network architecture; the core networks and access networks are still separated. Moreover, 5G has stronger guarantees around privacy and security protection than 3G and 4G. We urge the government to take an objective and fact-based approach to security issues, and work together on effective long-term solutions. Open dialogue, joint innovation, and close collaboration are essential to the ongoing development of the telecommunications industry.
* For any country, fair and robust market competition is essential to strong economic growth. The Australian government’s actions undermine the principles of competition and non-discrimination in fair trade. The government has not issued any specific concerns about Huawei’s governance, security, or suitability to safely and securely conduct business in Australia, so we’ve been given nothing to respond to. We will continue to engage with the Australian government, and in accordance with Australian law and relevant international conventions, we will take all possible measures to protect our legal rights and interests.