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.