Wednesday, 06 March 2019 19:12

Huawei cyber testing centre rejection by Australia 'an old story'

Huawei cyber testing centre rejection by Australia 'an old story' Pixabay

A spokesman from the Australian arm of Chinese telecommunications equipment vendor Huawei Technologies has expressed surprise about a report on Wednesday saying the Australian Government rejected an offer from the company to set up a cyber security testing centre, pointing out that this was something that it had first offered to the Gillard Government back in 2012.

The offer was made by Huawei Australia chairman John Lord in an address to the National Press Club that year, the spokesman said, adding that "we have always offered independent testing and said so publicly in speeches and media interviews".

The Australian Financial Review  reported on Wednesday that the Federal Government had rejected an offer by Huawei to build a cyber security testing centre, saying this was confirmed by "multiple sources".

The Huawei spokesman said there was no need for any confirmation by sources as this offer was well-known. "We have always offered this sort of option and the fact we were blocked [from bidding for work] on NBN and 5G shows it was rejected", he said.

Huawei has built cyber security testing centres in the UK and Canada and opened a third such centre in Brussels overnight.

The AFR also mentioned the proposal by Dr Mark Gregory, an associate professor in network engineering at RMIT University, to create a pilot telecommunications security assurance centre to implement and oversee security procedures for evaluating telecommunications infrastructure and systems.

It quoted Nigel Phair, director of UNSW Canberra Cyber, as claiming that there was no separation between the 5G core and the radio access network, a claim that has also been made by the director of the Australian Signals Directorate, Mike Burgess.

Phair was quoted as saying: "Before with telecommunications networks, you had a core and then edge component to a network. Some providers could do edge, some could do core. But with 5G you don't have that delineation. The concern is when you look at the game changer that 5G is considered to be, you have to be really careful who has access to the network. It's one massive piece of risk."

But last November, a 5G trial in Auckland conducted jointly by Huawei and New Zealand telco Spark, showed that this claim was incorrect.

The trial used a Huawei 5G NR (New Radio on both the C-band and mmWave) and a 4G Radio Access Network, both of which were deployed by using dedicated hardware connected to the Cisco Evolved Packet Core, with each component isolated.

Australia announced a ban on Huawei and another Chinese firm, ZTE Corporation, in August last year, preventing either company from participating in the rollout of 5G networks. Britain, which has had a long association with Huawei, said recently that any risk posed by the Chinese company was manageable.

Apart from the US, which has led the way in banning Huawei, only New Zealand has said it would block a move by Spark to use Huawei gear in its 5G rollout. But Wellington has now indicated that this is not the end of the matter.

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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