What Canadians should know about Nokia and Ericsson’s connections to China

As Canadian media and politicians warn against Huawei, other phone companies such as Nokia and Ericsson get a free pass.

Nico Johnson Montreal QC

The high-profile arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou raised the Canadian public consciousness of the threat of espionage from the Chinese phone company, yet other companies that have their products developed in China haven’t faced similar scrutiny.

Bell Canada Enterprises (BCE) announced earlier this month that it’s going ahead with development of its fifth-generation wireless network with Finland-based technologies company Nokia Corp., but has not ruled out working with Huawei in the future if the Chinese company is cleared once the findings of a federal review is completed.

Rogers is partnering with Ericsson to develop its 5G network.

Yet, Scandinavian telecoms Nokia and Ericsson both have much of their hardware manufactured in China, but there’s not the same level of scrutiny placed on them by the Canadian government.

In 2018, Bloomberg Businessweek came out with an expose revealing that the Chinese previously infiltrated 30 major US companies, including Apple and Amazon, by adding a tiny microchip to hardware manufactured in China.

Both Nokia and Ericsson have well over ten thousand employees based in China. The Chinese Communist Party is an investor in Nokia and links the joint venture on the party’s website. Furthermore, Nokia China research and development investment is in IP networks, optical networks, fixed networks, and next generation 5G networks, which includes crucial 5G components such as millimeter-wave and Massive MIMO.

Somehow, though, Nokia’s and Ericsson’s strong ties to China have gone largely unquestioned by Canadian media and politicians.

The US and Australia, Canadian allies that make up part of the Five Eyes intelligence group (as well as New Zealand and Britain), have banned the use of any Huawei technology in the development of 5G networks in their jurisdictions. Britain, on the other hand, announced recently that it will allow Huawei to supply some of the less crucial parts of the network, opening up the door for Canada to not outright ban Huawei from participating in supplying its hardware to Canadian telecom giants Rogers and Bell in building their 5G networks.

However, what has been entirely missing in the Canadian conversation is taking a strong look at Hauwei’s competitors, Nokia and Ericsson, to see if they need to be treated similarly to Huawei.

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