Huawei Awarded 4G Contract in Australia, Despite Continuing Security Concerns Over Its Eligibility for 5G Projects

On July 9, 2018, Huawei Tech­nolo­gies won a $101 mil­lion con­tract to build and main­tain the dig­i­tal radio sys­tems and 4G net­works that deliv­er voice and data ser­vices across the rail net­work of Perth, Aus­tralia.  Huawei was com­pet­ing with ZTE, Eric­s­son, Optus and Japan’s Ansal­do for the con­tract.  The net­work, which will be com­plet­ed by 2021, is part of a joint ven­ture with Aus­tralian UGL.  The 4G infra­struc­ture will man­age sig­nal­ing on the 180-kilo­me­ter rail line. 

The deci­sion is note­wor­thym giv­en the high-pro­file dis­cus­sions tak­ing place (includ­ing with­in the Aus­tralian gov­ern­ment) about the secu­ri­ty con­cerns raised by Huawei’s poten­tial involve­ment in the coun­try’s 5G net­work — and, indeed, whether it should be eli­gi­ble for such con­tracts.  The con­cerns are root­ed in the alleged ties between Huawei and the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment and the asso­ci­at­ed cyber­se­cu­ri­ty risks and threats asso­ci­at­ed with that rela­tion­ship.  A pre­vi­ous con­tract involv­ing Huawei was over­turned when it came to light that the Solomon Islands had con­tract­ed the com­pa­ny to lay a fiber-optic link between Honiara and Syd­ney.  There has recent­ly been height­ened sen­si­tiv­i­ty in Aus­tralia on the top­ic of Chi­nese activ­i­ty in the coun­try due to exten­sive alle­ga­tions of Bei­jing seek­ing to cul­ti­vate polit­i­cal influ­ence in the coun­try through var­i­ous means over a long peri­od of time.