Over security concerns, the federal government of Canada has barred Chinese telecommunication firms Huawei and ZTE from working on the country’s 5G networks, a move was seen by many critics as long overdue.
The action aligns Canada with important intelligence partners such as the US, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand or the Five Eyes intelligence network, who have raised worries about the national security implications of granting the Chinese internet giants access to critical communications infrastructure.
According to an official government policy document, enterprises will have until June 28, 2024 to remove or terminate Huawei and ZTE 5G equipment.
“The threats to Canadians are greater than ever, and we will protect them,” Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino told reporters in Ottawa. “There are many hostile actors who are ready to exploit vulnerabilities in our defenses — we must redouble our efforts.”
“The Government of Canada has serious concerns about suppliers such as Huawei and ZTE who could be compelled to comply with extrajudicial directions from foreign governments in ways that would conflict with Canadian laws or would be detrimental to Canadian interests,” the government’s policy statement said.
The government has also issued a removal order for 4G telecom equipment, requiring all parties to remove the infrastructure by December 31, 2027. In 2018, Australia imposed a 5G ban on Huawei, and New Zealand followed suit in 2019. The United Kingdom also enforced a ban in 2020 replacing Huawei with Nokia as their 5G network telecommunications supplier.
With its decision to take action against Huawei’s 5G equipment, Canada joins the “Five Eyes” intelligence-sharing network which comprises Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States, in imposing a blanket ban.
Canada believes that evolving international supply chain dynamics have further implications due to growing restrictions on access to certain components. Shifts from well-known inputs to others have implications for Canada’s ability to conduct assurance testing.
This changing supply chain environment toward other components, according to the federal government, will make it increasingly difficult for Canada to maintain a high level of assurance testing for certain network equipment from a number of potential suppliers.
The Canadian government claims to have conducted an extensive examination of 5G technology and arrived at the conclusion that — despite its benefits — the next-gen cellular technology opens the doors for new security threats. The government has raised concerns that Huawei and ZTE could be forced by the Chinese government to engage in activities that are not in Canada’s best interests
Huawei has previously denied being influenced by the Chinese government, and their official corporate website even features a dedicated 5G myth-busting resource page.