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Huawei headache for Ardern as UK Govt clears 5G deal

Author
Chris Keall, NZ Herald ,
Section
Business,
Publish Date
Monday, 18 February 2019, 12:42p.m.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

Spark has been given new hope - and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern a fresh headache - with the surprise news that the British government has given Huawei the green light.

Citing inside sources, the Financial Times reports the British government has concluded that it can mitigate the risk from using Huawei equipment in 5G networks - a development the paper calls "a serious blow to US efforts to persuade allies to ban the Chinese supplier from high-speed telecommunications systems".

While there has so far been no official announcement, the FT says the UK National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has determined that there are ways to limit the risks from using Huawei in future 5G networks.

The UK paper also quotes Robert Hannigan, former head of GCHQ (the Brit equivalent to our GCSB), saying the NCSC had "never found evidence of malicious Chinese state cyber activity through Huawei" and that any "assertions that any Chinese technology in any part of a 5G network represents an unacceptable risk are nonsense".

Spokesman Andrew Pirie says Spark is seeking more information on the apparent UK development.

The telco is still assessing its strategy but maintains hope that a revised Huawei proposal could be given the okay by the GCSB.

"We are still in discussions with GCSB officials," Pirie said this morning as the UK news broke.

"We are working through what possible mitigations we might be able to provide to address the concerns raised by the GCSB, and have not yet made any decision on whether or when we should submit a revised proposal to GCSB."

Earlier, GCSB Minister Andrew Little said there was no ban on Huawei per se. Rather, the GCSB vetted telcos' proposed network upgrades on a project-by-project basis.

It was possible that a revised Spark/Huawei proposal could gain GCSB clearance, Little said.

International security expert Paul Buchanan told the Herald that western intelligence agencies have been right to raise questions about alleged Huawei links to Chinese spy agencies. Huawei has argued that no evidence has ever been tabled, and maintains the allegations are politically motivated.

Little and Huawei have been approached for comment.

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