Canada is banning 4G and 5G telecom equipment from Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE, joining its "Five Eyes" allies in doing so. The decision follows a three-year review that was delayed by political tensions with China after Huawei’s CFO Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Canada on a US warrant.
"Our government will always protect the safety and security of Canadians and will take any actions necessary to safeguard our critical telecommunications infrastructure," said Canada's innovation minister, François-Philippe Champagne, in a press release.
"We’re disappointed but not surprised. We’re surprised it took the government so long to make a decision," Huawei spokesperson Alykhan Velshi told The Guardian. "We see this as a political decision, one born of political pressure primarily from the United States."
Two of Canada's largest wireless providers, Bell and Telus, switched to Ericsson and Nokia equipment in 2020 to build their next-generation 5G networks. However, both operators have some Huawei 5G equipment in place as part of so-called non-standalone 5G networks integrated with previous 4G networks. Those 4G networks were also built using Huawei equipment. Huawei has sold over $700 million in equipment to Canadian operators since 2018, mostly to Bell and Telus.
Both operators reportedly approached the federal government in the past to ask about compensation from taxpayers for potential removal Huawei or ZTE gear. The CEO of a smaller Northern operator, Iristel, previously said that a requirement to remove existing equipment would be "catastrophic."
However, Champagne said that operators will be required to remove any Huawei or ZTE gear at their own expense. Existing 5G equipment must be removed or terminated by June 28, 2024 and any 4G equipment by December 31, 2027, according to the policy statement.
Canada's Five Eyes intelligence allies, the US, Britain, Australia and New Zealand, have already banned Huawei and ZTE wireless equipment. Canada has faced growing pressure to do the same, over fears it could compromise the security of all five nations, given that China's laws require state companies to cooperate with intelligence services.