Statement on Malcolm Turnbull’s comments on 5G

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Huawei Australia's statement on comments made by former Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull about his decision to bar Huawei from delivering 5G technology in Australia

(Sydney; November 27th 2019): Huawei Australia would like to take this opportunity to respond to comments made by Malcolm Turnbull, former Prime Minister of Australia, on Sky News this morning.

Responding to questions about his government’s decision to exclude Huawei from delivering 5G technology to our Australian customers Mr. Turnbull said.

“It is possible to have equipment from what you might call high-risk vendors in fixed-line networks where the equipment is at the edge of the network and the risk to the overall networks because the equipment is at the very edge of the network is much less.

“In 5G where my government did take the decision to take high-risk vendors out of it because of the different nature of that network, because of the virtualization of that network and the distributed processing of it there isn’t really an edge [to the network] in the way that there is in many of the traditional fixed-line networks.”

Unfortunately, Mr. Turnbull is once again simply wrong about the architecture of 5G networks and clearly continues to rely on the incorrect technical advice he was given whilst Prime Minister.

As the UK Parliamentary Committee on Science and Technology found in its report to the UK Parliament there is a clear separation between Core and (non-core) Radio Access Networks in a 5G network architecture with the committee chairman, Norman Lamb MP, saying:

“Although the Australian Government has concluded that the distinction between core and non-core elements of 5G networks will be less clear than for previous technology generations, we heard unanimously and clearly that a distinction between the core and non-core elements of a 5G network will still exist.”

One of the key witnesses called by the UK Parliamentary Committee on Science and Technology in its investigations was Ian Levy, Technical Director of the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre, which has been auditing, evaluating and testing Huawei equipment for the UK Government for more than seven years.

In an earlier Blog post Mr. Levy made it quite clear that there would be no fundamental change in the architecture of 5G and current 4G networks.

“In the UK, we currently reckon that we’ll push core services out maybe as far as large metropolitan areas. Securing those should be broadly the same as the way we secure things today, you just have to do it more often. So, again, 5G changes things in interesting ways from the way we do things today, but not in a way that fundamentally breaks all our current security principles and paradigms.”

In addition, the Ovum Facts on 5G report which was published on July 29th, also made the point that securing 5G networks remained “similar to 4G.”

“5G security is an evolution of 4G security. 5G introduces new technologies, particularly support for virtualizing core network control plane functions. This requires some new security features. However, the overall 5G security architecture builds on 4G.

“The Core/RAN distinction is maintained. The basic security architecture of mobile communications, including RAN/core separation, does not change in 5G.”

Jeremy Mitchell, Director of Corporate and Public Affairs at Huawei Australia said:

“It is very disappointing that Mr. Turnbull continues to rely on factually incorrect information when commenting on his government’s decision to exclude Huawei from delivering 5G in Australia.

“As has been seen from multiple real-world deployments of commercial 5G networks in countries such as the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Spain and South Korea, operators are using Huawei technology in their Radio Access Networks and from other vendors in their core networks.

“This proves unequivocally that the Core and RAN networks can – and are – being split in 5G deployments in the real world – which disproves the incorrect advice he was given.”

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