Huawei 5GThere are many that think Huawei is just a puppet of the Chinese government and an equal number that think the Huawei bans and bad talk are nothing more than hype designed to stifle a non-Western competitor.

We recently wrote two articles explaining some of Huawei’s background:

  1. 10 Short Answers To Why Huawei is so Scary To Western Countries
  2. Who Owns Huawei? A Fascinating Story

but neither our previous articles nor the political hype have clearly explained why countries should avoid Huawei hardware and software.  In fact, they make clear that while there is much innuendo, there are no (public) hard facts indicating that Huawei has even done anything wrong.  So why should we avoid Huawei 5G networking gear?

1g 2g 3g 4g 5g timelineWhile 5G (meaning 5th Generation) is technically nothing more than the next iteration on 4G (4th Generation) cellular networks, it is in fact quite transformative.  As you can see in the chart to the right:

1G is basic cellular connectivity for voice calls
2G added texting
3G added basic internet data
4G added high speed internet data
5G will be 20 times faster than 4G, will be 75 times more responsive (latency)

4G vs 5G graphic

That description of 5G specs means that it will enable hundreds of millions of devices (think, cars, ovens, thermostats and sensors of every kind) to be connected.  That means once the standard is deployed it will be difficult to change out so it is important to get it right the first time.

To keep everyone in the West scared, the Chinese government recently enacted a law requiring that:

“…gives “state intelligence agents” the ability to demand co-operation from (Chinese) organisations while carrying out “intelligence work”, which is vaguely defined.

While political hype surrounding that law does not match the actual requirements of that law, it is VERY possible that the Chinese Government would pass a law in the future requiring Chinese companies to provide ‘back doors’ or streams of data from foreigners like the UK, US, France, Canada… .   That law would likely demand secrecy and not allow Chinese companies like Huawei to disclose their activities.

Remember the Snowden documents proved the NSA was secretly secretly spying on Brits, Americans, Canadians… and how the companies involved were bared from admitting their actions.  Why would China be any more ‘ethical’ than the United States?

Further, it is critical to understand that Huawei systems, like all systems these days, require constant updating and patching.  That means hacks may not be in place today but could be in place tomorrow and then gone again a few weeks later.

The Case Against Using Huawei 5G

In the most direct terms:

  1. Huawei hardware/software will be patched constantly, making the possibility of future hacks likely
  2. Huawei is tied to the Chinese government, specifically Chinese law that will inevitably require data to be handed over
  3. 5G is a big, long term communication system that will be very difficult to change out in the future

Bloombery China HackNot Fair But Necessary

As much as think Huawei is getting a ‘raw deal’ in that they are being scandalized for something they have not yet done, Western nations like Canada, the US, UK, France, Germany… are well advised to bar all Chinese and Russian tech companies from adding to our core computer infrastructure, including 5G.

There is clearly a reciprocal concern.  The Chinese Government definitely do not trust American, British, Canadian, French… communication systems, and for good reason.  The Chinese are working hard to produce 100% internally sourced hardware and software for their core networks.

All of this means, the globe is likely to end up with two parallel 5G systems, one Western and one Chinese.  That will result in duplication, increased costs and development times.

We are on the road to reduced innovation because we both have legitimate reasons to not trust each other.

1 Comment

Peter Tindall · June 27, 2019 at 3:18 pm

All Chinese corporations are essentially arms of the Communist Party and subject to their control. There is absolutely no doubt that they do the bidding of the “security” services. There is no such thing as the rule of law independent of the state in China as exists in Western democracies (leaving aside Justin Trudeau’s antics trying to subvert our justice system for his friends at SNC-Lavalin, the Mark Norman debacle, etc). Remember, this is a society that is using techniques like facial recognition software and constant monitoring of internet etc. activity to calculate a “social conformance” score that is used to determine whether your children are eligible for university, whether you get promoted or fired, etc. China is a police state, pure and simple and their current behaviour (false arrests, trumped up agriculture bans, etc.) in response to a US extradition request of a Huawei executive from Canada is a good example of the thuggery that passes for government in China. I would not let companies like Huawei anywhere near critical data infrastructure.

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