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Oscar Williams

News editor

New Zealand intelligence agency blocks mobile carrier from using Huawei components

One of New Zealand’s biggest mobile carriers has been blocked from using Huawei components in its 5G infrastructure.

Spark revealed on Wednesday that New Zealand’s intelligence agency had rejected its application to use the Chinese technology because it raised national security concerns.

The move comes after the Wall Street Journal reported last week that the US government was encouraging its intelligence allies to drop support for Huawei, which insists it operates independently of authorities in Beijing.

Andrew Hampton, the head of New Zealand’s intelligence agency, issued a statement on Wednesday saying he had “informed Spark that a significant network security risk was identified”, Reuters reported.

While the company told NS Tech that it would “actively address any concerns and work together [with Spark] to find a way forward”, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson, Geng Shuang, used stronger rhetoric.

In a daily news briefing, Shuang expressed “serious concern” about the development and said “we hope the New Zealand government provides a fair competition environment for Chinese companies operating in New Zealand, and does more to benefit bilateral mutual trust and cooperation”.

Huawei has traditionally enjoyed a warmer relationship with the UK than some other Western nations. Its work in the UK is an integral part of its international marketing strategy, and serves to convince other Western governments that its products can be trusted.

But cracks began to emerge over summer when the government revealed shortcomings in products supplied by Huawei to the UK’s telecoms networks, and warned they may pose a risk to national security.

The Chinese multinational’s products reportedly presented a number of technical issues, including point vulnerabilities and more strategic architectural and process problems. Huawei said at the time it was committed to addressing the issues.

Earlier this month, the government sent a letter to telecoms companies warning them that an upcoming infrastructure review may lead to a change of rules for supply chain procurement. As the Financial Times reported, the move was widely believed to be aimed at Huawei.

Commenting on New Zealand’s move, a Huawei spokesperson said: “Huawei is aware of Spark’s statement, and we are looking into the situation.  We will actively address any concerns and work together to find a way forward. As a leading global supplier of telecoms equipment, we remain committed to developing trusted and secure solutions for our customers.

“Huawei’s 5G equipment is already being deployed by major carriers around the world. Moving forward, we will continue to provide our customers with innovative, trusted, and secure 5G solutions.”