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Bell bullish on Huawei 5G as Ottawa dithers over decision

Huawei has been one of our suppliers for our 4G LTE network and they’ve been a great partner, their equipment is top notch: Bell Canada CEO.
Jason Unrau Montreal, QC

Bell Canada’s new boss says Huawei 5G is “top notch” and would employ the hardware on BCE Inc.’s telecom infrastructure–the same hardware security experts warn could be used to spy on Canadians and that United States outright-banned from its domestic network.

“Huawei has been one of our suppliers for our 4G LTE network and they’ve been a great partner, their equipment is top notch,” Mirko Bibic told Bloomberg in an television interview yesterday.

Bibic assumed CEO responsibilities for Canada’s second-largest telecom provider on Monday, Jan. 6 following predecessor George Cope’s retirement.

“Ultimately, what we’d like is some clarity. Clarity is always good when you’re making these kinds of investments. Regardless of the outcome, we’d still adjust.”

Bibic’s comments come as the federal government remains in deliberations on whether to allow the Chinese firm’s 5G technology on Canada’s domestic telecommunications infrastructure.

Scott Bardsley, spokesperson for Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, told The Post Millennial in an email that Ottawa would “ensure that our networks are kept secure and will take appropriate decisions in due course.”

“While we cannot comment on specific companies, an examination of emerging 5G technology and the associated security and economic considerations is underway,” said Bardsley.

“This review includes the careful consideration of our allies’ advice.”

In addition to Blair’s department, the Communications Security Establishment, Canadian Security Intelligence Service, Global Affairs Canada and Innovation, Science, and Economic Development are all in on the decision, Bardsley noted.

Adding complexity to the decision are relations between Canada and China, which have reached a nadir over the arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou in December 2018, as she transited through Vancouver International Airport.

Meng is wanted in the United States on fraud and conspiracy charges for her role in alleged violations of American sanctions against Iran that Huawei allegedly violated.

The Huawei executive, currently under house arrest in Vancouver, will appear in court on January 20 for formal extradition hearings. Meanwhile, two Canadians–Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig–remain in Chinese custody going on 393 days for espionage charges; apparent retaliation for Meng’s arrest.

In Nov. of 2018,  United States asked allies to ban Huawei’s 5G hardware from their telecom networks.

Austrailia and New Zealand have since agreed–both are part of the Five Eyes surveillance network that includes the U.S., UK and Canada.

Britain may also abandon its 5G telecom deal with the Chinese company but like Canada, no decision has been made as it studies the matter.

Almost a year ago, former Pentagon and Central Intelligence Agency officials told Ottawa lawmakers that Huawei 5G presented national security risks.

More recently Susan Rice, former U.S. national security advisor to President Barack Obama echoed these concerns in a November 2019 interview with CBC.

“It gives the China the ability, if they choose to use it, to access all kinds of information, civilian intelligence, military, that could be very, very compromising,” she told the public broadcaster.

Rice went on to say that if Canada were to allow the technology on its telecom infrastructure that would forever change the security relationship between our countries.

“That would put the security collaboration which serves the security interests of every Canadian and every American, into jeopardy,” said Rice.

“It can’t be done. I don’t see how we can share (intelligence) in the way we have. It’s not a joke. It’s truly serious.”

In addition Canadian telecom giant BCE, northern communications upstart Ice Wireless told TPM in December of last year that the company was ready to deploy Huawei 5G across the far north and was waiting for a decision from Ottawa.

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