Andrew Little says New Zealand won't follow UK's Huawei 5G ban

Andrew Little.
Andrew Little. Photo credit: Newshub.

By Rachel Thomas of RNZ

New Zealand won't ban Huawei equipment despite a move in the UK to purge the Chinese company's gear from its 5G networks.

The ruling follows sanctions imposed by the US, which claim the firm poses a national security threat - something Huawei denies.

Now the UK parliament has heard that by 2027, it will be illegal to use 5G infrastructure components from Huawei.

One commentator says the UK's decision is about more than just the company.

Global Security analyst Dr Paul Buchanan believed it could be more to do with the wider diplomatic stoush over China's handling of Covid-19 and Hong Kong's democracy protests. He said New Zealand should be reconsidering its relationship too.

"There are serious suspicions that they're just not honest brokers, that they use their inclusion in world trade regimes to advantage themselves at the expense of others, and they simply don't play by the same rules as everybody else.

"So I think that New Zealand, because of its vulnerabilities, needs to reconsider its trade relationship with China because that will not go back to what it was before February."

But in a statement, the Minister Responsible for the GCSB, Andrew Little, said the Government would not rule out using future tech from Chinese telco Huawei.

"New Zealand does not ban any telecommunications vendor," he said.

"We do, however, have a well-established and independent regulatory process to ensure the security of our networks under the Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Act 2013 (TICSA)."

"TICSA has been in place since 2014, and works well. We are confident that New Zealand's telecommunications networks are secure, and that our regulatory model serves New Zealanders well."

He said every decision was made on a case-by-case basis, and in accordance with New Zealand laws.

Tech commentator Bill Bennett said Huawei had not yet shown it could meet those standards.

"Huawei didn't pass the test the first time around and everyone goes out of your way to tell you that's not a ban, that in effect bans it from the network until it passes that test, so we're already in the 'not going to be buying Huawei' camp."

However, he said that could all change if governments changed - both in New Zealand and overseas.

Currently, no telco providers are using Huawei technology as part of their 5G networks in New Zealand - with Vodafone and Spark both working with Nokia.

But Spark and 2 Degrees have refused to say whether they would rule out partnering with Huawei for 5G networks in the future.

Telecommunications Users Association chief executive Craig Young said a ban in New Zealand would mean less competition.

"If the New Zealand Government follows suit, the number of providers that could provide services is reduced, so therefore the competitive tension that occurs at that level when you're buying network - it won't be as strong as it would have been before.

"So we may not see a price increase in the long run, we may not see the price decreases we'd otherwise have seen."

Young said 2G, 3G and 4G networks were integrated so a ban would force companies with Huawei equipment in their core network - like 2 Degrees - to replace expensive hardware.

Huawei New Zealand deputy managing director Andrew Bowater said the company had been in the New Zealand market for 15 years, and remained committed to its customers.

"5G technology is a great opportunity for New Zealand, however it is not the top priority as we come out of Covid-19 and we understand this and have no intention of making this an issue right now."

He said Huawei wanted to help the economic recovery by ensuring its networks worked well.