China's telecommunications and networking giant Huawei today launched a charm offensive to convince Australian MPs that they have nothing to fear. In fact, Australia's 5G wireless network would be considerably worse off without the company's input. Here's what you need to know.
It's no secret that the Australian government is a bit leery of Huawei. The Chinese multinational was allegedly shut out of NBN contract bids due to national security fears raised by ASIO. Further abroad, the company's smartphone range was recently red flagged by the CIA during a Senate Intelligence Committee.
The chief cause for concern relates to a Chinese law that compels organisations to assist with "national intelligence work" - and what this could mean if the firm was granted access to our country's telecommunication infrastructure. In theory (and we stress, this is just theory), Huawei could be compelled to grant the Chinese government access to vulnerability information or even provide a technology backdoor.
For its part, Huawei wants to assuage Australian politicians and consumers alike that there is nothing to fear from its products. Not unrelatedly, the company is currently shortlisted to provide equipment to Australia’s new 5G wireless network - which would obviously be a highly lucrative contract.
Today, Huawei sent a detailed letter to Australian politicians and media outlets, including Lifehacker which was signed by chairman John Lord and two company directors. It attempts to explain why the company should not be excluded from supplying equipment to our 5G network. In short, it would drive up the cost for consumers and jeopardize its operations in Australia due to "ill-informed comments" that are not based on facts.
We'll let you judge for yourself. Here is Huawei's letter to the government in full:
Recent public commentary around China has referenced Huawei and its role in Australia and prompted some observations around security concerns. Many of these comments are ill-informed and not based on facts.
On behalf of Huawei Australia’s board and our 700-plus employees, we want to provide a factual basis for further discussion about Huawei and our important role in ensuring the world’s best telecommunications technologies are shared by Australians.
Since starting operations in Australia almost 15 years ago, Huawei has grown every year and now stands as the nation’s largest provider of wireless technology. We are already an established player in Australia’s information and communications technology (ICT) ecosystem. One in every two Australians now rely on us for their daily communication needs. Our telecommunications equipment connects millions of Australian businesses and consumers every day on the Vodafone, Optus and TPG mobile networks.
Huawei Australia’s investment in telecoms infrastructure has driven incredible improvements and reliability in the Optus and Vodafone networks and now Australia has a vigorously contested wireless telecoms market that sees your constituents reaping the benefits from the enhanced competition.
Australians want fast, affordable and reliable telecommunications services. The injection of Huawei’s world-leading technologies has unquestionably played an important role in creating the dynamic and competitive telecommunications industry Australia enjoys today. Increased competition not only means cheaper prices but most importantly better access to the latest technologies and innovation.
As focus turns to investment in the next generation of telecom technologies in Australia, cybersecurity is a key consideration for Australian policymakers. We welcome an open and transparent conversation on this important subject based on facts.
Huawei is the world’s number one telecom infrastructure provider, working with 45 of the top 50 international telecom operators, including Vodafone, BT in the UK, Telus in Canada, Spark in New Zealand, and Telefonica and Deutsche Telecom across Europe. Huawei is a trusted partner with these global giants which rely on our pioneering and reliable technology for their business.
We are a private company, owned by our employees with no other shareholders. In each of the 170 countries where we operate, we abide by the national laws and guidelines. To do otherwise would end our business overnight.
With our 5G investments in the United Kingdom, Canada and New Zealand, the respective governments have taken up our offers for evaluation of our technology to ensure it abides by its cybersecurity protocols. In our ongoing discussions with Australian Government agencies about our 5G proposal, Huawei has also offered to build an evaluation and testing centre to ensure independent verification of our equipment right here in Australia, just as we have done in other countries.
We have an open invitation for Australian officials and security agencies to meet with our world-leading research and development teams to better understand our technology.
We have hosted similar visits in recent times from security departments representing the governments of the United Kingdom, Canada and New Zealand. These engagements have fostered a better understanding in this critical policy area for both parties.
Importantly, it has also cleared the way for those nations to access the world’s best telecommunications technologies. This infrastructure creates a competitive and safe telecom industry and networks. Countries like the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, Spain, Italy and New Zealand, just to name a few, have managed to embrace Huawei’s technology within their own national security frameworks.
We believe this can be done in Australia also. To completely exclude Huawei from 5G in Australia means excluding Huawei from the entire Australian market and we don’t believe this would be in Australia’s best interest.
All of these measures illustrate our transparency on the cybersecurity issue. We firmly believe two-way communication and learnings creates a better and safer ICT landscape for everyone, principally the Australian community.
As a Member of the Australian Parliament we would like to welcome the opportunity to discuss our business with you and your colleagues to generate a better understanding of how we operate. If you have any questions or would like to meet to discuss any issues please do not hesitate to contact us.
It's worth noting that not all security professionals agree that Huawei could be a security risk to Australians. You can read more about the issue here.