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Canada Bans China’s Huawei from 5G Networks

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After years of deliberation on the matter, Canada’s Liberal government has decided to ban Chinese equipment manufacturers Huawei and ZTE from the country’s 5G networks.

The announcement was made on Thursday afternoon in Ottawa, by François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, and Marco Mendicino, Minister of Public Safety.

“Telecommunication companies in Canada will not be permitted to include in their networks products or services that put our national security at risk,” said Industry François-Philippe Champagne of the government’s ban on Huawei and ZTE equipment from 5G networks.

“As a result, telecommunications companies that operate in Canada would no longer be permitted to make use of designated equipment or services provided by Huawei and ZTE. As well, companies that already use this equipment installed in their networks would be required to cease its use and remove it. The government intends to implement these measures as part of a broader agenda to promote the security of Canada’s telecommunications networks and in consultation with industry,” said Champagne in a statement, noting telcos will not be compensated.

Canada’s allies in the Five Eyes intelligence alliance, consisting of the US, UK, Australia and New Zealand had already banned or restricted Huawei equipment such as for 5G. Canada was the lone holdout and its decision today only comes after ‘hostage diplomacy’ was put forth by the Chinese government.

Back in December 2018, Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou was arrested at the Vancouver International Airport, on behalf of the U.S. for extradition down south, on alleged fraud charges that violated economic sanctions against Iran.

The arrest set off “hostage diplomacy”, where the Chinese government detained two Canadian citizens in the country, holding them captive until they were freed in September of last year, shortly after Meng struck a deal with the U.S. to drop the fraud charges.

Canada refused to announce a ban on Huawei during this time, tip-toeing around the situation in fear of retaliation against the two Canadian men detained in China, businessman Michael Spavor and former diplomat Michael Kovrig.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a Huawei 5G ban decision would be announced in the “coming weeks” after the two Michaels were freed, but that never happened. China has long warned Canada against a Huawei 5G ban, saying “that will be sending out a very wrong signal to the Chinese companies.”

Telus and Bell use Huawei hardware for their 4G networks and reports last fall said both companies would seek taxpayer compensation if it was required to remove the Chinese company’s gear from its networks, with estimated costs for the removal said to be in the $1 billion CAD for Telus alone. The goal for Telus and Bell was to create 5G networks by adding onto existing Huawei 4G gear, but that doesn’t look possible anymore.

Bell and Telus last year announced partnerships with Sweden’s Ericsson and Finland’s Nokia to build 5G networks, ditching Huawei for its next-generation networks. Rogers picked Ericsson for 5G networks back in 2018.

The decision to ban Huawei comes one day after China lifted its three-year ban on Canadian canola oil imports, a move made months after Meng was arrested in Canada.

When asked why Canada took so long to make its Huawei 5G decision, Champagne refused to answer the question, other than say the country’s timeline was in line with G7 partners. “At no point when you’re taking a decision on national security, is it a race,” he said.

…developing, more to follow

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