According to The Globe and Mail, the federal government is asking Telus to remove Huawei 4G wireless gear from the Ottawa Capital Region, citing security concerns.
The problem? Unnamed sources tell the Globe Telus swapped out cellular gear from Nokia for Huawei and this was unknown to the government until recently. There was an apparent unwritten voluntary agreement with the previous Conservative government and Telus to not install Huawei gear in the National Capital Region.
The Ottawa Capital Region is home to the RCMP, the Bank of Canada, the National Research Council and other security agencies and with Huawei 4G wireless gear being used, experts are saying it’s a huge national security risk.
The former assistant director of operations at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), said the Nokia-Huawei hardware swap was a big mistake, noting the Chinese company is not a trusted vendor.
“Allowing Huawei around sensitive, even insensitive, government institutions is problematic because it is an organization that is a statutory arm of the Chinese government, and in so doing, it has to follow all the rules of the Chinese government including the intelligence act,” said Andrew Ellis to the Globe. “So to allow them anywhere near government infrastructure, whether it is secure infrastructure or otherwise, is a mistake.”
Telus responded to the Globe to say, “While we aren’t able to comment on specific discussions, we have been very clear with the federal government and key stakeholders about our use of Huawei in the non-sensitive portion of our network,” said Carey Frey, vice-president and chief security officer at Telus.
Frey added, “We continue to be fully compliant with the obligations of the security review program which governs those matters.”
The federal government has not decided yet to ban Huawei 5G gear in Canada, despite allies urging and publicly arguing the Chinese company is a security concern, due to its ties to the Chinese Communist Party and its founder a former general in the People’s Liberation Army. The founder’s daughter, Meng Wangzhou, remains in custody in Vancouver, with an ongoing U.S. extradition case underway.
Earlier this month, Telus announced it selected Ericsson and Nokie as partners for building out its 5G network. The company previously stated it would be launching 5G with Huawei RAN hardware in Canada.
Update June 17: Telus sent iPhone in Canada the following statement, in regards to The Globe and Mail story, refuting the allegations and stating they are false:
“TELUS vigorously denies the allegations contained in your story dated June 16, 2020. There has never been an agreement — voluntary, verbal or otherwise — between TELUS and the federal government regarding the use or prohibition of Huawei network equipment in the National Capital Region, nor has the federal government asked us to remove equipment that is currently in use there. In fact, there is no regional ban on the use of network equipment anywhere in the country,” said Ibrahim Gedeon, the company’s Chief Technology Officer.