OTTAWA – Canada on Thursday said it plans to ban the use of Chinese Huawei Technologies Co Ltd and ZTE Corp 5G gear to protect national security by joining the rest of the so-called Five Eyes intelligence-sharing network.
“We want to exclude Huawei and ZTE from our 5G network,” Industry Minister Franোয়াois-Philippe Champagne told reporters in Ottawa. “Suppliers who have already installed this tool must stop using it and remove it as part of the plans we are announcing today.”
Champagne added that companies will have to remove their 5G gear by June, 2024, without compensation. By the end of 2027, companies using their 4G devices will have to move out.
The decision – widely anticipated – was delayed amid diplomatic tensions with China. The rest of the Five Ice Network – comprising Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand – has already banned the equipment.
In September 2018, Canada first announced that it would review potential security threats to the acquisition of Huawei equipment.
Then in December of that year, Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer, was arrested in Canada on a U.S. warrant, creating a protracted dispute with China that ended with Meng’s release last September.
Following Meng’s arrest, Beijing arrested two Canadians and charged them with espionage. The two men were released on the same day as Meng.
Diplomatic tensions between China and Canada have eased somewhat. On Wednesday, China lifted a three-year ban on Canadian canola seed imports, reversing what was seen as retaliatory measures for Meng’s arrest.
The decision came on Thursday after Canadian telecom companies had already chosen to use other companies’ 5G hardware.
China has opposed the decision. “We will take all necessary measures to protect the legitimate interests of Chinese companies,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told reporters in Beijing on Friday.
A spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Canada said the alleged security concerns were an “excuse for political manipulation” and that Canada was working with the United States to crack down on Chinese companies.
Alikhan Velshi, vice president of corporate affairs at Huawei in Canada, said in an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation that the company was still waiting to hear “what kind of national security threat Huawei posed.”
Welsh said Huawei still has 1,500 employees in Canada, mostly in research and development and selling products such as mobile phones and will continue to do so.
ZTE did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In 2020, Bell Canada and rival Telus Corp – two of the largest wireless providers – to build a fifth-generation (5G) telecom network with Sweden’s Ericsson and Finland’s Nokia Oyj, excluding Huawei for the project despite using Huawei 4G gear.
In addition to the sanctions, Public Security Minister Marco Mendisino said Canada would draft new legislation to protect critical financial, telecommunications, energy and transportation infrastructure from cyber threats. (Reporting by David Lajungren, Additional Reporting by Ismail Shakil, David Kirton and Yu Lun Tian; Writing by Steve Shearer; Editing by Sandra Mailer and Stephen Coates)