Huawei, ZTE banned from providing tech to Canadian 5G networks

Canada's government said Thursday that the country's 5G networks must be purged of products and services from Huawei and ZTE, based on national security concerns associated with the two China-based companies.

The move follows similar bans by the other members of the English-speaking Five Eyes intelligence alliance. The chief concern is that technology from Huawei and ZTE could contain security holes intended to allow quiet access by China's government.

"The Government of Canada has serious concerns about suppliers such as Huawei and ZTE who could be compelled to comply with extrajudicial directions from foreign governments in ways that would conflict with Canadian laws or would be detrimental to Canadian interests," Canada's Ministry of Innovation, Science and Industry said in a policy statement.

Canadian Public Safety Minister Marco Medicino said the decision "reflects the values of Canadians," and he noted the similar actions taken by allies.

Members of opposition parties in Canada said the decision came too late, according to the CBC. Conservatives said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government should have heeded warnings earlier, and they pointed to the costs that Canadian companies will face in complying with the ban.

Canada already had some restrictions on using Huawei and ZTE tech in its 3G, 4G and LTE wireless networks. The new 5G policy sets specific deadlines for compliance: Canadian wireless providers will have until June 28, 2024, to remove existing equipment from Huawei or ZTE and terminate managed services. A similar ban applying to 4G networks will apply after Dec. 31, 2027. By Sept. 1 of this year, Canadian telecommunications companies must cease procurement of new 4G or 5G technology from the Chinese firms.

China says the 5G bans by Five Eyes countries are purely political, with the goal of keeping Chinese companies from competing in Western markets.

"China will comprehensively and seriously evaluate this incident and take all necessary measures to safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese companies," the Chinese Embassy in Canada said in a statement, according to the CBC.

Last week President Joe Biden extended an executive order prohibiting U.S. companies from using telecommunications equipment produced by firms posing a national security risk — a document pointed directly at Huawei and ZTE.

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Joe Warminsky

Joe Warminsky is the news editor for Recorded Future News. He has more than 25 years experience as an editor and writer in the Washington, D.C., area. Most recently he helped lead CyberScoop for more than five years. Prior to that, he was a digital editor at WAMU 88.5, the NPR affiliate in Washington, and he spent more than a decade editing coverage of Congress for CQ Roll Call.