Canada banning Chinese telecom giant Huawei, ZTE from 5G networks

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Canada is banning China's Huawei Technologies and ZTE, another Chinese company, from participating in the country’s 5G wireless networks, citing national security and cybersecurity concerns.

Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry Francois-Philippe Champagne and Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino made the announcement about prohibiting products and services from these “high-risk vendors,” in Ottawa on Thursday.

"In the 21st century, cyber security is national security. From cyber attacks, to electronic espionage, to ransomware, the threats to Canadians are greater than ever, and we will protect them,” Mendicino said. "It is against this backdrop that we have to be sure that we safeguard Canada's telecommunications system. 5G networks are being installed across the country, and this innovation represents a major opportunity for competition, and growth. Yet, with this opportunity also comes risks.”

The federal government has long faced pressure to ban the Chinese telecom giant from participating in the development of Canada's fifth-generation telecommunications infrastructure.

The Liberals have promised for years an announcement on the issue was coming, citing the need to follow the proper processes, after launching a broader security review of 5G wireless technology in 2018.

On Thursday, Mendicino said that this examination "was carried out meticulously, responsibly, and with all the due diligence that was required in order to protect our national security."

The transition to 5G is set to bring higher speeds and improved interconnectivity. However, according to the federal government, with this comes the concern that "an exploitation of vulnerabilities by malicious actors will be more difficult to safeguard against, and that incidents will have a broader impact than in previous generations of wireless technology."

Observers had suspected the major policy decision was delayed in part due to China’s detention of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, which was largely seen as retaliation for the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in Canada.

Spavor and Kovrig were released in September 2021 after the extradition against Meng was dropped. At that time, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he’d be sharing Canada’s decision on what to do with Huawei “in the coming weeks.”

Canada has been the last holdout member of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance, with Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States already all deciding to either ban or restrict Huawei from partaking in the implementation of their 5G networks.

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