Huawei and 5G: To Ban or Not to Ban

Where Canada and 8 other countries are at
December 20, 2018 Updated: January 1, 2019

Amid increasing scrutiny of Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei and growing cyberintelligence concerns, many countries are pondering whether—or how much—to involve the company in developing their 5G networks.

Canada still hasn’t decided. Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said this week that reports that Ottawa will ban Huawei from its 5G network are “speculation.”

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that the federal government would soon be announcing a formal ban on Huawei as well Chinese telecommunications equipment maker ZTE.

But Goodale dismissed that in an interview with CBC Radio, calling it speculation and saying the government has “not arrived at a conclusion.”

Canada is the only member of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance to not ban Huawei in some form, either through the government or through major telecommunication companies.

Five Eyes is an intelligence alliance between the United States, United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia, and Canada. Members share intelligence to combat terrorism, espionage, and global crime.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been briefed twice by Five Eyes spy chiefs on the national security risk posed by Huawei, according to the Globe and Mail.

Canadian national security agencies are reportedly working on reviewing whether the company’s equipment represents a national security risk, though the government has yet to say when the review will be completed.

Huawei announced on Dec. 18 that it had 25 commercial contracts for 5G. It also announced plans to spend $2 billion on cybersecurity over the next five years.

The company, which is the largest telecommunications equipment maker in the world, is seen as a security risk due to its close ties with the Chinese communist regime. Its founder and CEO Ren Zhengfei is a former People’s Liberation Army member, and China’s 2017 National Intelligence Law requires corporations, organizations, and citizens to aid in Chinese intelligence work when required to.

Concerns have increased since the arrest of Huawei CFO Wanzhou Meng on charges of fraud related to U.S. sanctions on Iran, as more information has emerged on the company’s deep involvement with the Beijing regime’s strategic goals both in China and overseas.

8 Other Countries and Where They Stand

United States

The United States has banned Huawei and Chinese technology from being used in the country, and Washington has repeatedly called on its allies and nations around the world to follow suit.

In August, President Donald Trump signed the Defense Authorization Act, which banned U.S. government agencies from using or purchasing equipment from a number of Chinese companies—it specifically named Huawei Technologies Company and ZTE Corporation.

Huawei has already been banned from bidding on U.S. government contracts since 2014.

U.S. senators Marco Rubio and Mark Warner have both urged Trudeau to consider dropping Huawei from being involved in building Canada’s next-generation 5G telecommunications network.

“While Canada has strong telecommunications security safeguards in place, we have serious concerns that such safeguards are inadequate given what the United States and other allies know about Huawei,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter to Trudeau. Warner and Rubio are on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

In a senate hearing earlier this year, six major U.S. intelligence heads—including the FBI, CIA, and NSA—warned Americans against using products and services from Huawei, which is the second largest smartphone maker in the world.

“We’re deeply concerned about the risks of allowing any company or entity that is beholden to foreign governments that don’t share our values to gain positions of power inside our telecommunications networks,” FBI Director Chris Wray testified.


On Aug. 22, Australia banned Huawei and ZTE from providing 5G technology for the country’s 5G network, citing national security risks. While the initial statement did not specify the company by name, an Australian government official said the order was aimed at Huawei, according to Reuters. The original statement said national security regulations typically applied to telecom carriers would be extended to equipment suppliers.

Firms “who are likely to be subject to extrajudicial directions from a foreign government” would leave the nation’s network vulnerable to unauthorized access or interference, and presented a security risk, Reuters said.

Huawei is already a supplier of Australia’s 4G network but, as a high-risk vendor, was shut out of its core network. However, in a 5G network, “a potential threat anywhere in the network will be a threat to the whole network,” said Australian Signals Directorate Mike Burgess at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute in October.

New Zealand

After Austalia, New Zealand became the next Five Eyes member to issue a ban against Huawei in November, citing “significant network security risk.”

New Zealand barred telecom company Spark from using Huawei’s network equipment for its 5G network. The Government Communications Security Bureau blocked the request on the grounds that on a 5G network, it is harder to confine “high risk” vendors to a less sensitive part of the network.

“The difference between 5G networks and conventional 4G and 3G networks is the configuration of the technology,” Little said. “With 5G technology, every component of the 5G network means every part of the network can be accessed.”

United Kingdom

While the U.K. has not formally issued a ban against Huawei equipment from being used in its 5G network, the nation’s largest telecommunications company BT said earlier this month that it would not use Huawei for its upcoming 5G network, and it would also remove the company from the core of its existing 4G and 3G networks.

The Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre, which monitor’s Britain’s use of Huawei technology, said in a report from earlier this year that they could give “limited assurance” that Huawei posed no threat to national security.

The centre was opened to mitigate “perceived risks arising from the involvement of Huawei in parts of the UK’s critical national infrastructure.”


Earlier this month, Japan joined other nations in banning government purchases of telecommunications equipment from Huawei and ZTE, though they were not explicitly named. The guidelines are reportedly designed to prevent leaks of sensitive information. The new rules will take effect sometime in the new year.


France has not explicitly banned Huawei, though the government has pushed for tighter regulations, according to a Bloomberg News article. France’s largest telecommunications company Orange SA has said it will not use Huawei’s technology in its national 5G network, though it has not commented on whether it would use Huawei technology in foreign markets.


Senior German officials are planning to try and convince the government to exclude Chinese firms like Huawei from being allowed to build the country’s 5G network amid security concerns, reports Reuters.

Germany is preparing to auction its 5G frequencies for 5G wireless networks in spring 2019, and three of its largest telecom companies continue to work with Huawei equipment in building 5G networks.

Germany’s Deutsche Telekom recently announced it would review its vendor strategy amid growing concerns around Huawei, though it has been working with Huawei in its 5G network trials.

Der Spiegel reported that Germany’s Federal Office for Information Security found no proof that Huawei’s network infrastructure was any more or less secure than its competitors, and its president said evidence is needed before they would recommend a ban.


The Indian government recently invited Huawei to do 5G trials in the country, according to the Times of India. While initially not included, the government extended the invitation after protests from Huawei. Other invitees include Nokia, Ericsson, and Samsung. Amid global security concerns, the government is planning to hold consultations on the use of Huawei’s equipment in field trials for 5G technology.