Canada has said it will ban Huawei and ZTE from the country’s 5G network, a move that puts it in line with intelligence-sharing allies but risks further chilling relations with China.
The federal government made the announcement Thursday afternoon after signaling for months that it intended to block flagship Chinese telecommunications companies from accessing 5G networks in Canada.
“We will take all necessary measures to protect our telecommunications infrastructure,” said Innovation Minister François-Philippe Champagne. Telecom providers who already have equipment from the companies must remove it — and Champagne said there would be no compensation provided by the federal government. Canadian telecom companies have spent nearly C$700 million (US$546 million) on Huawei gear over the years, mostly on 4G or LTE gear.
The rest of the Five Eyes network – the US, Britain, Australia and New Zealand – have already banned Huawei gear.
Public Security Minister Marco Mendicino called the move a “necessary step” amid growing skepticism about Beijing’s reliability.
For years, Canada has faced mounting pressure from allies, including the United States, to ban Huawei’s 5G equipment over fears it could compromise national security.
In 2018, Canada said it would review any potential concerns posed by the adoption of the technology.
But any decision has been delayed after Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Canada on US warrant. In a move widely seen as retaliation, China arrested two Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, later charging them with espionage. The long-running dispute ended after a British Columbia court ordered Meng’s release. China released the two Canadians a few hours later.
As the standoff dragged on, relations between the two countries soured. While China recently lifted a years-long ban on Canadian canola imports in a sign of a thaw in relations, it’s unclear how Thursday’s decision will affect ties between the two nations. Chinese government officials had previously warned that a ban on telecommunications infrastructure could lead to retaliatory measures.