Huawei Australia slams MacTel chief over Chinese gear ban comment

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Huawei Australia slams MacTel chief over Chinese gear ban comment

Huawei Australia has engaged in a war of words with Macquarie Telecom group executive Luke Clifton over a LinkedIn post critical of Chinese telco equipment.

Clifton last week shared an Australian Financial Review article on LinkedIn, with a caption of: “When the federal government banned Huawei from Australia's 5G network, we made the decision across the Macquarie Telecom Group to strip all Chinese equipment from our business. We now have zero Chinese infrastructure in our network.”

“Will other telcos do the right thing by Australia and follow our lead? #SoUnTelco”, the post read.

Huawei responded with a media alert sent today, with Huawei Australia chief corporate affairs officer Jeremy Mitchell saying the company was disappointed that Clifton would address the issue of cybersecurity “in such a frivolous manner”, specifically targeting the Monday edition of telco industry publication of Communications Day.

“As the entire industry is well aware, securing telecom networks against cybersecurity threats is critical to deliver a safe and secure environment for those that rely on our technology and networks,” he said.

“That being the case to see a company use this critical issue to try and gain commercial advantage is extremely regrettable.”

Mitchell cited findings from the European Union and two separate UK Parliamentary Committees that said simply banning technology from companies because of their flag of origin “is completely ineffective” as it does not take into account the complex nature of global supply chains.

“If Telstra were forced to follow through on Macquarie Telecom’s advice and “do the right thing”by removing all Chinese manufactured networking equipment then it would have to remove all of its 4G and 5G network equipment manufactured by Ericsson in China with its local state-owned joint-venture partner, Panda Electronics.

“In the same vein, both Optus and TPG/Vodafone would also have to remove all of their 4G and 5G kit from Nokia that was manufactured in China from the Nokia Shanghai Bell joint-venture.

“In addition, NBN Co would also have to strip out its 4G Fixed Wireless equipment made by Ericsson and any fixed-line network equipment made in China by Nokia, ADTRAN or Casa Systems.

“Where exactly would that leave the Australian telecoms industry and the millions that rely on its services?” Mitchell continued.

Mitchell also questioned how MacTel can be so sure that it doesn’t use network equipment that is manufactured in China, saying that not only do European vendors manufacture in China, but US companies like Cisco also have substantial manufacturing facilities in China and then export that equipment globally, including to Australia.

Mitchell also took aim at Clifton’s response to a commenter of the LinkedIn post saying it would be a good idea to establish a government based certification program for all telcos to prove that their equipment is fully cleared of Chinese technology.

“On one point we can agree, we support the call for the establishment of a government-based certification program, although not for the means of establishing whether or not it was made in China as we already know that the vast majority of Australia’s network equipment is being made there,” he said.

“We do however support a government-run certification program for all network equipment providers to demonstrate that their kit meets established cybersecurity standards before it is allowed to be deployed onto Australian networks - we have been calling for such an approach for many years.”

Updated 7 July 2020 9:30am: Macquarie Telecom group executive Luke Clifton provided the comment below:

“Our decision to remove Chinese-owned equipment across our business was based on Australia’s need and customer demand for trusted and secure telecoms networks. We stand by that decision and would welcome a government certification program to encourage other providers to follow suit and safeguard Australia’s telecoms, cloud and cyber security infrastructure across the supply chain.”

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