According to a report by the National Post, Bell and Telus, who have both installed Huawei equipment for their older-generation networks, have asked the government for possible taxpayer compensation in case they need to remove Huawei equipment from their networks.
Citing unnamed sources, the publication notes that while the exact cost for removing Huawei equipment is unclear for the two telcos at this point, early estimates put the figure at up to $1 billion for Telus. Both companies could find themselves forced to replace the equipment if the Liberals end up banning Huawei.
The report further cites a government source who said that since the cabinet hasn’t yet made a final decision on a ban, it is too early to begin any formal conversations about compensation.
Carleton University international affairs professor Fen Hampson said that given the dominance in Canada of the Big Three wireless providers — Bell, Telus and Rogers — there will be less “public sympathy for a public bailout of these companies by Canadian consumers” who pay some of the highest fees in the world for wireless services.
“In the end though, Canadian taxpayers will be stuck with the bill. And the question is how much.” he said.
Experts believe Canada has no choice but to go ahead with a ban, given that the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, and the U.K. have all banned or restricted Huawei equipment.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Innovation Minister François-Philippe Champagne have recently suggested an announcement on the ban would come within weeks.
The federal government has been dragging its feet on the decision, ever since before the recent federal election and also prior to China releasing the two Michaels and the departure of Huawei’s Meng Wanzhou.