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Huawei Hit Back: 5G Ban Not The 'Kiwi Way' Of Doing Things

2018.12.18

A couple of years before I joined Huawei I remember watching Tom Cruise’s sci-fi film, Minority Report, which was based on the idea that in years to come people could be convicted of ‘future crimes’ determined by an all-knowing algorithm rather than evidence. 

Little did I know that this film would be prophetic for Huawei. For the last two years I have run the Huawei operation in New Zealand, but in the last month our future has been condemned without any charges or evidence being brought. 

Huawei has been in New Zealand since 2005, delivering high quality network infrastructure to 2degrees, Spark, Vodafone and Chorus as well as 30 per cent of the technology behind the Government UFB project. Around 150 people make up the Huawei New Zealand team and I am extremely proud of our work here.
We led the development of 4G, investing heavily in future technologies and New Zealand has benefitted from that. We have a proven record of having the best technology and always deliver. That’s why our customers keep coming back to us. 

New Zealand might be small, but it is innovative and open to the world and new ideas. For Kiwi innovation to flourish we need the best platform – and that means having the best possible 5G network. Our innovators need to stay competitive and not hamstrung by inferior network technology.  During the 5G trials with Spark this year we achieved a then world-record of 18.23Gbps while our competitors only reached just over 1Gbps – which we wouldn’t even class as 5G.
As BT’s Chief Architect, Neil McCrae, said at the Global Mobile Broadband Forum in London, “There is only one true 5G supplier right now, and that is Huawei. The others need to catch up.”

We understand that we have had to constantly prove ourselves. We open ourselves up to more scrutiny than any other player in the market and understand that as a company headquartered in China, there could be sensitivities for politicians. But we also believe any perceived risk can be mitigated and managed in a mature manner, as has happened in the past.

Since the Telecommunications Interception Capability and Security Act was passed in 2013, we have shown we have nothing to hide and New Zealanders can have confidence that every major piece of work we do in New Zealand is subject to rigorous independent evaluation by the UK Cyber Security Evaluation Centre, overseen by UKGCHQ reporting to GCSB.

Our 4G technology has passed this process and there has never been any evidence of wrongdoing by Huawei presented. Telecommunications is a relatively small industry and we know that our competitors are not made to jump through the same hoops as Huawei. None of our competitors have to get their source code evaluated in the UK. 

But in order to mitigate risk, we need to understand what the Government considers a risk. While the Government has insisted there is a process to be followed, till now, it has been totally opaque and deliberately excluded Huawei from having any sort of voice.

We have requested meetings and an opportunity to address and mitigate any risks, but the Ministers involved and the GCSB Director General have all refused to meet on the grounds that the ‘process’ is ongoing. But what sort of fair and transparent process excludes one party?

The Minister for the GCSB, Andrew Little, told media there are technical issues with Spark’s application to use our technology in 5G, yet he can’t say what those technical issues are and he won’t meet us. Minister Little said to media that the process was ongoing and that Spark can come back with a mitigation plan. But how can a plan be developed when he or his officials can’t point to any issues? And if it isn’t technical – what is the issue?

Our industry has been left with more questions than answers from Government. At a time that business confidence is low, the Government has cast doubt over the technology sector. My colleagues around the world are developing phenomenal technology solutions that power everything from transport systems to transforming the way the agricultural sector works, and New Zealand now risks missing out. 

We have already lost significant new business due to Ministers making unsubstantiated claims there are technical issues with our products, while we are left in the dark. 

We are being denied any sense of natural justice.  That isn’t the Kiwi way of doing things. 

Huawei is not being judged on what we have done during the last 13 years, rather, like Tom Cruise, our future is in doubt on the basis of no actual evidence.

While Ministers might not feel comfortable meeting face-to-face, I believe we deserve better than this and New Zealand deserves better. We have a right to a fair-go and Kiwi businesses should be able to depend on the best technology to propel us into the future.