Claire Trevett

Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Broadband-plan telco banned in Oz

Huawei opened offices in New Zealand in 2005 and has scored supply deals for the ultra-fast broadband scheme. Photo / AP
Huawei opened offices in New Zealand in 2005 and has scored supply deals for the ultra-fast broadband scheme. Photo / AP

Prime Minister John Key says he is comfortable with Chinese telco Huawei's involvement in the Government's ultra-fast broadband scheme, despite the company being banned from a similar Australian project because of cyber attack concerns.

Huawei opened offices in New Zealand in 2005 and has scored major supply deals with Enable Services and Ultrafast Fibre Ltd, the Government's private partners for the ultra-fast broadband (UFB) scheme in Christchurch and the central North Island.

The Chinese company also signed an equipment deal last year with Chorus to help roll out fibre lines in the rural broadband initiative (RBI).

Huawei's technology was used to build 2degrees' mobile infrastructure and last year the Chinese telco won a $140 million contract to extend 2degrees' network.

But it has been revealed Huawei was advised late last year that it could not tender for Australian national broadband network (NBN) contracts because of concerns about cyber attacks emanating from China.

Commenting on the issue, a spokesman for Australia's Attorney-General Nicola Roxon said the Government had a responsibility to "do its utmost" to protect the integrity of the national broadband network and the information carried on it.

Speaking to the Herald at the Nuclear Security Summit in South Korea, Key would not comment on security matters but said issues about Huawei had been raised and considered.

"We received good quality advice and we do the best to protect New Zealand businesses and consumers where we think that's necessary," the Prime Minister said.

Key said the UFB contract with Huawei began before Australian actions against the company.

He was aware of Australia's actions but had a limited knowledge on the reasons for it.

"We are comfortable with the current arrangements we have."

According to the Australian Financial Review, Huawei is challenging the move "vigorously in public and by using diplomatic channels" in the country.

"Huawei sources have also hinted that the Chinese government will retaliate strongly against Australia if the ban on the company's tenders is not lifted," the AFR reported.

Australia's federal parliamentary interests register shows Huawei has been courting senior coalition figures and sponsoring their trips to China and Hong Kong.

Huawei corporate affairs director Jeremy Mitchell said Australia was still getting used to privately owned Chinese companies and Huawei would not give up on tendering for NBN projects.

"This is new territory. We see this as a setback, we're obviously disappointed but through looking at what we've done overseas, looking at what we've done in the United Kingdom, we can put in place measures that help the Australian government consider us as a partner in the NBN," Mitchell said.

The fibre lines laid as part of New Zealand's UFB scheme will offer 75 per cent of New Zealanders download speeds of at least 100 megabits per second by the end of 2019.

This is more than 20 times faster than the average speeds enjoyed by most urban internet users in 2010. additional reporting: AAP

- NZ Herald

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