As his last act as Prime Minister before being booted out by his party, Malcolm Turnbull banned Huawei from supplying network equipment to Australian telcos as part of their 5G roll-out over the years ahead.
A pretty big deal, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, Huawei is one of the biggest manufacturers of network technology – so cutting them out narrows the market, most likely therefore increasing the cost to build the network, and thus the cost to consumers.
But also, because there was no actual evidence to support the decision. Now I know, I’m not in the National Security briefings, but if the “Five Eyes” spy group which is made up of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the USA have reason to believe there’s a credible threat – how about some evidence?
Leaving that aside, fundamental to Malcolm’s decision was the assertion that the core network could not be separated from the physical network – and thus there is a security risk.
What does that mean? Well, if a telco’s core network (let’s think of that as the brains of the network, the computer handling the traffic) can’t be separated from the actual physical network (the towers themselves) then the “Chinese government” could potentially get straight into the core network through secret back doors built by Huawei.
Again, no proof, but still.
Funny thing. The UK has just allowed Huawei to partner with British telcos to build 5G – how? They’ve separated the Core network out and they won’t provide that.
There’s a bunch of other things they’re doing to make it all credible and as secure as possible, but the bottom line is, we look like idiots who jumped way too fast without a decent investigation.
Now Telstra don’t really give a rats about all this – they’ve long been working with other network vendors and I doubt Huawei ever had much of a chance there. Optus and Vodafone, however, may well have loved to draw on Huawei’s networking prowess for their 5G build – let along poor TPG who barely got off the line.
Beggars belief really – Malcolm could make such a decision with the stroke of a pen. Yet no one seems to care that huge amounts of our current 3G and 4G data usage and calls are happening on Huawei network gear do they? Ridiculous.
About time the current government took a look at Malcolm’s decisions and reconsider, though I’m not sure there is much left to fight for at Huawei with all three telcos already committing to their 5G builds?
Trev is a Technology Commentator, Dad, Speaker and Rev Head.
He produces and hosts two popular podcasts, EFTM and Two Blokes Talking Tech. He also appears on over 50 radio stations across Australia weekly, and is the resident Tech Expert on Channel 9’s Today Show each day and appears regularly on A Current Affair.
Father of three, he is often found down in his Man Cave.