Huawei logo in a server room

Canada to ban Huawei and ZTE from 5G network

Image credit: Alexey Novikov |

Canada has announced its plans to ban the use of China's Huawei Technologies and ZTE 5G gear to protect national security, in line with the decision of intelligence-sharing allies.

Canada is following in the footsteps of the so-called Five Eyes intelligence-sharing network, as the country decides to exclude Huawei and ZTE from its 5G networks, claiming national security risks.

The decision has been delayed for almost four years amid diplomatic tensions with China. The rest of the Five Eyes network – the USA, UK, Australia and New Zealand – has already banned the equipment, claiming links between the company and the Chinese state. Countries including Germany and Spain have also begun to take similar steps.

Huawei has always maintained it is an independent company and rejected these allegations. 

"We intend to exclude Huawei and ZTE from our 5G networks," said Canada's Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne. "Providers who already have this equipment installed will be required to cease its use and remove it under the plans we're announcing today."

Champagne added that companies will be required to remove their 5G gear by June 2024 and would not be reimbursed. Companies using Huawei 4G equipment must be removed by the end of 2027.

The decision has not been received well by the Chinese authorities, with Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin telling reporters that China would take "all necessary measures" to safeguard the legitimate interests of Chinese firms.

The first indications of Canada’s position against Chinese telecommunications giants were seen in September 2018, when the country announced it would review the possible threats to national security in adopting Huawei equipment. Later that year, Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Canada on a US warrant, creating a long-running dispute with China that ended last September with Meng's release and this week’s removal of a three-year restriction on imports of Canadian canola seed.

A spokesperson for China's embassy in Canada said the alleged security concerns were a "pretext for political manipulation" and accused Canada of working with the US to suppress Chinese companies.

Canadian telecom companies have spent nearly C$700m (approximately £437m) on Huawei equipment over the years, largely on 4G or LTE equipment. Huawei also has 1,500 employees in Canada, mostly in research and development, and is still planning to continue selling products such as mobile phones in the country.

“We’re disappointed but not surprised. We’re surprised it took the government so long to make a decision,” Huawei spokesman Alykhan Velshi said in an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. “We see this as a political decision, one born of political pressure primarily from the United States.”

In 2020, Bell Canada and rival Telus Corp – two of the biggest wireless providers – teamed up with Sweden's Ericsson and Finland's Nokia Oyj to build 5G telecoms networks, ditching Huawei for the project despite using Huawei 4G gear. In addition to the ban, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said Canada would draft new legislation to protect critical financial, telecommunications, energy and transport infrastructure from cyber threats.

“We’ll take any actions necessary to safeguard our telecommunications infrastructure,” said Champagne. 

Sign up to the E&T News e-mail to get great stories like this delivered to your inbox every day.

Recent articles