Huawei intensifies 5G push, says Australia could become cyber security leader
A senior cyber security chief of Chinese tech giant Huawei has said the company will work with Australia to set up a world-leading internet security centre if it is allowed to build the next 5G wireless network.
Huawei is in the midst of a push to try to convince Australia's Government it can be trusted to build and manage the next major roll-out of wireless infrastructure.
National security concerns based around Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei's previous links to China's military, along with broader concerns about potential Chinese espionage, have dogged the company's ambitions in Australia.
But representatives have increasingly argued their case publicly, claiming Huawei is ahead of its competition on technology and could deliver taxpayers better value if allowed to build at least some of the new infrastructure.
"Huawei is probably the most audited, inspected, reviewed, poked and prodded company in the world — we see that as a good thing", said John Suffolk, a senior vice-president and global cyber security and privacy officer.
Before joining Huawei, Mr Suffolk served as the UK's chief information officer, and has been closely involved in setting up a cyber security evaluation centre in Britain to oversee Huawei's involvement in critical infrastructure there.
"I think Australia could create a centre that not just covers this risk but becomes a cyber security centre of excellence for all of Asia, and we'd be very happy and delighted to work with Australia on that model," he said during an interview at Huawei's sprawling campus headquarters in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen.
His comments follow a National Press Club address by Huawei's Australia's chief John Lord in which he rejected concerns that China's national intelligence law would coerce Huawei to cooperate with Beijing for espionage.
Huawei says it follows the laws of more than 170 countries it operates in, saying China's laws only apply in China and not beyond.
The company still faces an uphill battle to convince Australian security agencies and the Federal Government that it can be trusted, having previously been blocked from building the National Broadband Network.
"We don't see similar concerns in other countries other than Australia and America," Mr Suffolk said.
Huawei has already provided equipment for some of the existing 4G network in Australia, but the significant speed increase and potential application advances of 5G technology have sparked the debate over its role in the next major upgrade.
Other potential bidders include European network infrastructure providers Ericsson and Nokia.
"All those 5G infrastructure providers are foreign-owned but only China is being singled out as being suspicious or with suspicious intent," Professor Chen Hong from East China Normal University in Shanghai said.
"In China, many observers believe this is a reflection of Sinophobia in Australia."