Saskatchewan Not Happy It Has to Rip Out Huawei 4G Gear

The Government of Saskatchewan is not happy with Ottawa’s decision to ban Huawei from 5G networks in Canada, despite already having barred the Chinese company from provincial telecom operator SaskTel’s 5G network some two years ago — reports 650 CKOM.

Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government last week announced a ban on Huawei (and ZTE) equipment in Canadian 5G networks after years of deliberation. However, the feds didn’t stop there. The prohibition also extends to the country’s 4G networks, and that complicates SaskTel’s plans.

“The thing that they tucked into this was we must also stop using the existing 4G equipment even though there’s never been a risk — it’s a fundamentally different product,” Don Morgan, the minister responsible for SaskTel, said on Wednesday.

“Now it puts SaskTel in a very difficult and rather cumbersome position of how they go ahead with the 5G rollout.”

Morgan said he tried to talk to the federal government about Huawei and 5G years ago when SaskTel was mapping out its 5G rollout, but he never received a definitive response. The province eventually decided against incorporating Huawei equipment on its own, choosing to go with Samsung tech instead.

However, SaskTel’s 4G network is a different story and uses Huawei gear. The operator now has until December 2027 to decommission and remove all Huawei equipment from its 4G network. The same goes for Bell and Telus as well.

Morgan noted that the equipment will have started to enter the end of its useful life by that time anyway, but the government’s decision speeds up both the timeline and the $200 million replacement cost. The ban also makes it so the gear can’t be redeployed to underserved areas.

“Now we’re not able to take any of the equipment (and) redeploy it elsewhere in remote areas or anything. It’s the fact that they’ve added this on and I don’t believe they’ve done that anywhere else in the world except for in Canada,” said the minister.

That is less than ideal, considering 4G won’t be anywhere near obsolete by 2027 and telcos will have to keep 4G networks around and maintained for a good few years after.

According to Morgan, the provincial government is frustrated and angry with the federal government over the 4G caveat.

Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said on Tuesday that the delay in Ottawa’s decision to ban Huawei from 5G networks was unrelated to China’s previous detainment of Canadian journalists Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, and was instead a result of political and technological challenges associated with the move.