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Huawei's year off to a rocky start

Paul Brislen, Editor. 16 January 2019, 2:17 pm

Huawei's year is off to a rocky start with more countries reviewing the role Huawei equipment plays in their networks.

Last year ended poorly for the local Huawei team with the GCSB refusing Spark's application to use Huawei equipment in its 5G deployment. This despite Huawei equipment being integral to Spark and 2Degrees' mobile networks and to large tracts of the fixed-line environment as well.

In December, Canada arrested Huawei's CFO (the company founder's daughter) Meng Wanzhou on possible trade breaches with regards to Iranian sanctions. That has lead, apparently, to a tit-for-tat exchange between Canada and China which has resulted in a Canadian man who was arrested in 2014 being given the death penalty for allegedly planning to smuggle around 227kg of methamphetamine into China.

Earlier this month Poland accused the Huawei head of sales in the region of spying, sparking concerns that the US-China tiff will spill over into Europe, a region where Huawei is keen to increase its foothold.

Now the floodgates have opened with the province of Saskatchewan asking questions about Huawei's involvement in its own telco networks and the Taiwanese Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) apparently going so far as to ban Huawei devices from connecting to its internal network. In the US, the Department of Commerce has apparently blocked Huawei's locally-based subsidiary, Futurewei, from sending some of its technologies back to China.

Huawei is one of the largest brands on the New Zealand market so any such move locally would have major repercussions for the telco sector. Many of New Zealand's UFB modems are supplied by Huawei as well, making it a major headache for local providers. Huawei has already offered to withdraw from contention for the core components of Spark's 5G network build, and has recently gone one step further and suggested only New Zealand staff would work on 5G networks here, in order to help assuage fears around spying claims.

Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei has taken the unusual step of holding a press conference to reassure users and international spy agencies that the company has no ties with Chinese officials (military or government) and that the company wouldn't hand over individuals' information to anyone in authority.

Whether that's enough to stem the tide remains to be seen, but as long as questions swirl and the US retains its opposition to Chinese companies and their involvement in the west, Huawei's year looks set to deteriorate further.




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