Canada is banning 4G and 5G telecom equipment from Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE, joining its “Five Eyes” allies. The decision follows a three-year review that was delayed by political tensions with China after Huawei’s CFO Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Canada under a US warrant.
“Our government will always protect the safety and security of Canadians and will take all necessary steps to protect our critical telecommunications infrastructure,” Canadian Innovation Minister François-Philippe Champagne said in a press release.
“We are disappointed, but not surprised. We are surprised that it has taken so long for the government to make a decision,” Huawei spokesman Alykhan Velshi told The Guardian. “We see this as a political decision, one that stems primarily from political pressure from the United States.”
Two of Canada’s largest wireless carriers, Bell and Telus, switched to Ericsson and Nokia equipment in 2020 to build their next-generation 5G networks. However, both operators have installed some Huawei 5G equipment as part of so-called non-standalone 5G networks that are integrated with previous 4G networks. Those 4G networks are also built with Huawei equipment. Huawei has sold more than $700 million worth of equipment to Canadian operators since 2018, primarily to Bell and Telus.
Both operators have reportedly approached the federal government in the past to ask for taxpayer compensation for possible removal of Huawei or ZTE equipment. The CEO of a smaller northern operator, Iristel, previously said a requirement to remove existing equipment would be “catastrophic”.
However, Champagne said operators must remove any Huawei or ZTE equipment at their own expense. Existing 5G equipment must be removed or terminated by June 28, 2024 and all 4G equipment by December 31, 2027, according to the policy statement.
Canada’s Five Eyes intelligence federations, the US, UK, Australia and New Zealand have already banned Huawei and ZTE’s wireless equipment. Canada is under increasing pressure to do the same, fearing it could jeopardize the security of all five nations as China’s laws require state-owned companies to partner with intelligence agencies.
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