Since arriving here to become Chief Technology Officer at Huawei Australia back in March 2018 – having spent the bulk of my career in Europe – one thing has been abundantly clear to me: Australia must embrace its role as a key part of the Asia Pacific region, especially in the technology sector.
I very much hope that the expansion of my role to include the responsibilities of Cyber Security Officer will help me to play a role – however small – in achieving that because the risks of not doing so are very significant for this country.
Let’s be quite clear, the current ban on Australian network operators using 5G technology from Huawei is a really big problem.
It is causing problems for our network operator customers that want to use our world-leading technology – we have already seen TPG abandon its network rollout because of the ban.
It is also causing problems for the Australian economy by creating tension with our biggest trading partner.
So, as Cyber Security Officer – in addition to my existing CTO role – it will be my responsibility to show both the Australian government and operators that we are able to help our customers build resilient networks based on trustworthy 5G products and solutions – independently verified – in Australia.
We have already shown ourselves able to do this in a number of markets around the world and last week we saw two separate UK Parliamentary committees issue final Ministerial reports finding that banning Huawei from 5G does nothing to improve security of networks from a technical viewpoint – one report said it actually worsened the outlook for network security.
So, given a fair opportunity to make our case by the Australian Government, I am very confident that we can demonstrate that there are no security risks attached to our 5G technology.
The reality is that solving this 5G issue is crucial for Australia going forward, it is a problem that has to be solved – and it’s not like other US allies in Asia Pacific have not been able to solve the problem.
Just look at South Korea – perhaps America’s closest ally in the Asia Pacific region – where the government has not banned Huawei from building 5G networks and is already reaping the rewards for their approach.
South Korean mobile operator LGU+ has launched 5G services using technology from Huawei and the South Korean 5G market already has over one million subscribers already signed up to services and consumers are already accessing Gigabit speeds that unlock next-generation applications.
This kind of 5G success story is something we are going to see plenty more of right on our doorstep in the next with Huawei working on delivering 5G in virtually every country in the region and we expect around 80 million 5G subs in Asia Pacific in the first year of services.
It’s a similar story all over Europe where we are seeing operators working with governments to find solutions to delivering 5G in a safe and secure manner and we have already seen launches in the UK, Spain and Germany – with other countries like my own home country of Italy following in their footsteps.
The reward for these countries is obvious, their citizens get access to the world’s best 5G technology – delivered in a safe and trusted environment – and they get it at the best possible price because vendors have to compete for the business.
Moreover, by encouraging open competition and not arbitrarily shutting the door on the world’s leading technology company, these countries are able to attract considerable new investment with Huawei recently announcing a $3 billion investment in Italy over the next three years – creating some 3,000 new Hi-Tech jobs.
The sad truth is that whilst Australia is locking out Asia’s leading technology company from 5G that it is not going to be able to attract that kind of investment in the technology sector.
Unless we change our current course on 5G deployment we are going to end up as a small and isolated American-led hamlet in an Asia Pacific region where our neighbors are embracing world-class technology developed in their own back-yard and not shipped in from Europe
From my point of view it is very strange that Australia still looks far more to the United States and to Europe for technology influence and engagement than it does to the hugely important Asia Pacific market right on its doorstep – Asia’s technology innovation leadership is not something that is going to go away any time soon.
If the rest of our neighbors in the Asia Pacific region – including countries like South Korea that also have to manage critical international alliances – can find ways to engage with Huawei’s technology in a safe and secure manner then why can’t Australia do the same?
We are open to working with the Australian Government and network operators to finding the right solutions and I look forward to playing whatever role I can in what lies ahead.
David Soldani is Chief Technology and Cyber Security Officer at Huawei Australia.