Canada is banning China’s Huawei Technologies and ZTE, another Chinese company, from participating in the country’s 5G wireless networks, citing national security concerns.

Telecommunication companies in Canada will not be permitted to include any products or services from these telecommunications companies in their networks. Providers who already have this equipment installed will be required to cease its use and remove it.

Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry Francois-Philippe Champagne and Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino made the announcement about prohibiting these “high-risk vendors,” in Ottawa on Thursday.

The federal government says it intends to see the Canadian telecommunications industry:

  •  Cease procurement of new 4G or 5G equipment and services from Huawei and ZTE by September 2022;
  •  Terminate the use of any new or existing 5G equipment and services from Huawei and ZTE by June 2024; and
  •  End the use of any new or existing 4G equipment and services from Huawei and ZTE by December 2027.

The federal government says it will be tabling legislation “in the very short term” that will make amendments to the Telecommunications Act that they say will shore up Canada’s telecommunication system against national security risks in the finance, telecommunications, energy and transport sectors.

“This new legislation will establish a framework to better protect the systems vital to our national security and give the government a new tool to respond to emerging cyber threats,” Minister Mendicino said.

Among the reasons cited in the government’s “policy statement” accompanying the announcement are:

  •  5G is set to usher in massively enhanced data capacity that will see billions of devices connected and will “serve as the basis upon which other technologies, our digital economy, and our critical infrastructure, will depend,” so Canada needs to ensure it’s security;
  •  The government “has serious concerns” about Huawei and ZTE being “compelled to comply with extrajudicial directions from foreign governments in ways that would conflict with Canadian laws,” or counter to Canadian interests; and given the nature of international supply chain dynamics and allies’ “similar concerns” Canada feels that it would become “increasingly difficult for Canada to maintain a high level of assurance testing for certain network equipment from a number of potential suppliers.”

The federal government has long faced pressure to ban the Chinese telecom giant from participating in the development of Canada’s fifth-generation telecommunications infrastructure.

On Thursday, Minister Mendicino said that this examination “was carried out meticulously, responsibly, and with all the due diligence that was required in order to protect our national security.”

The transition to 5G is set to bring higher speeds and improved interconnectivity. However, according to the federal government, with this comes the concern that “an exploitation of vulnerabilities by malicious actors will be more difficult to safeguard against, and that incidents will have a broader impact than in previous generations of wireless technology.”

“In the 21st century, cyber security is national security. From cyberattacks to electronic espionage, to ransomware, the threats to Canadians are greater than ever, and we will protect them,” Minister Mendicino said.

“It is against this backdrop that we have to be sure that we safeguard Canada’s telecommunications system. 5G networks are being installed across the country, and this innovation represents a major opportunity for competition and growth. Yet, with this opportunity also comes risks,” the public safety minister continued.

Minister Champagne said that going forward, the government could evolve its policy to include other companies deemed a risk.

Canada has been the last holdout member of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance, with Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States already all deciding to either ban or restrict Huawei from partaking in the implementation of their 5G networks.

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