New Zealand has blocked one of its biggest telecom operators from using 5G telecoms equipment from Huawei due to national security concerns, in the latest sign of growing unpleasantness over the alleged links to the Chinese government.
The decision is a blow to the world's largest telecoms equipment maker, which is a leader in the next generation of mobile technology but has already been blocked from supplying such equipment in Australia and the US on similar grounds.
Spark New Zealand's proposal to use Huawei's 5G technology was denied after the country's intelligence agency said it would raise "significant national security risks," said the company on Wednesday.
"The director general has informed Spark today that he considers Spark's proposal to use Huawei 5G equipment in Spark's planned 5G radio access network, if implemented, raise significant national security risks," said the company.
Spark said it was disappointed by the decision and had not yet reviewed the detailed reasoning behind it. But the company added it was confident that it would not delay the telecoms operator's planned launch of a 5G network by July 1, 2020.
The US is ratcheting up its partners in the Five Eyes intelligence and security network – a group that includes Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the UK – to block Huawei and ZTE, another Chinese telecoms group, from 5G networks.
In August, Canberra blocked both operators from participating in the roll out of 5G on national security grounds, saying the technology presented new security challenges because it provided a way to circumvent traditional security controls. The UK warned telecom operators earlier this month to consider their suppliers carefully when rolling out 5G, in comments that were interpreted as targeting Huawei.
Huawei said it was aware of Spark's statement and was investigating the situation.
"If the GCSB (New Zealand's intelligence agency) has noted, this is an ongoing process. We will actively address any concerns and work together to find a way forward, "said a Huawei spokesman.
Under New Zealand law, Spark could seek to work with both Huawei and the intelligence services to mitigate any risks to national security. A final decision on any proposal to use Huawei equipment would then be made by New Zealand's Minister for Justice.
Analysts said the efforts against Huawei and ZTE were part of a emerging technology war between western powers and China, in which democratic countries would evaluate equipment providers more carefully to ensure that the groups do not impinge national security.
"The decision by New Zealand is a big deal and is a signal that the Five Eyes nations are moving toward adopting the harsh approach taken by Australia towards Huawei," said Fergus Hanson, a cyber security expert at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, a thinker -thanks.