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Huawei – into your pocket and out of the news – Newsroom


Hadyn Green

Newsroom contributor Hadyn Green has been the technology writer for Consumer New Zealand since 2010 and can reliably find the hidden gremlins in any device.

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It’s an interesting way to launch your new phone: battle the US government while you try to convince other governments that your infrastructure tech is safe to install. For a brand whose main fight for the last few years has been for public awareness, this is a strange situation.

While in Paris tech fans were wowed with the launch of the Huawei P30 Pro, in Canada a hearing is under way to extradite Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer, to the United States. The company’s financial and technological success is juxtaposed against growing anti-China sentiment.

Of course that sentiment is mainly from Five Eyes countries: Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States, and New Zealand. All of these countries have voiced their reservations, restricted, or flat-out banned Huawei from being part of their telecommunications infrastructure, especially building new networks.

Those new networks are 5G. The newest, fastest, wireless technology. The tech that could bring in everything from streaming gaming to driverless cars. It’s a big leap and there’s a lot of money to be made.

So far the UK is the only country that has said they can manage risks posed to the network. Alex Younger, the head of the UK’s intelligence service MI6, has said that “some decisions” will need to be made over Huawei’s role. The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) – part of GCHQ, the UK’s version of the GCSB – concluded that any risk posed by involving the Chinese tech giant in the development of new networks can be managed.

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However, they also said that there were “significant technical issues in Huawei’s engineering processes”. Essentially, the NCSC are claiming that the rapid expansion by Huawei has led to a lax attitude to security issues and that these issues have not been solved. Huawei countered with their equivalent of “she’ll be right”.

It’s pretty easy to stretch the metaphor. The phone has four cameras on the back and one on the front: five eyes to see you in the greatest detail, and so on. But in reality this is a company trying to act like everything is business as usual, while a trade war is fought around them.

Outside of Five Eyes, the European Commission is urging EU countries to increase data-sharing to tackle security risks related to 5G networks, ignoring calls to ban Huawei. Coincidentally, the last time Huawei released a phone from its P series, it was held in London, this time it’s in Paris.

The P30 sits in the middle of all of this. A phone but it can also been seen as a tiny symbol of defiance. While Huawei has been locked out of infrastructure, they still sell a lot of handsets – second most in the world behind Korean giant, Samsung.

It’s pretty easy to stretch the metaphor. The phone has four cameras on the back and one on the front: five eyes to see you in the greatest detail, and so on. But in reality this is a company trying to act like everything is business as usual, while a trade war is fought around them.

And this week Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is in China, with Huawei being one of her major talking points with Premier Li Keqiang and President Xi Jinping.

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The rejection of Huawei into our networks, despite support from Spark, could be seen as New Zealand siding with the US. As such, the Prime Minister will likely be put upon to explain the GCSB’s decision, something those in New Zealand’s tech industry would also like to hear.

In the days after the GSCB’s call, New Zealand was inundated with ads across all mediums saying “5G without Huawei, is like rugby without New Zealand”. On Twitter, an account called @HuaweiFacts (“The official truth and facts about Huawei”) went on the offensive. The facts seem to be mostly about the company’s lawsuit against the US government for “unconstitutional sales restrictions imposed by Congress”, but promoted into New Zealand timelines.

The telecommunications giant is fighting for our hearts and minds. Which brings us again to the phone, because it’s really good. So is the Y7, released a few weeks earlier. Huawei are doing their best to become a name you know because it’s in your pocket and not on the evening news.





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