Australia’s government today effectively banned China-based equipment vendors Huawei and ZTE from participating in the country’s rollout of 5G mobile infrastructure due to national security concerns.

The government said any vendor “likely to be subject to extrajudicial directions from a foreign government that conflict with Australian law” would be disqualified from being involved in the country’s 5G deployment.

In a joint statement, acting Home Affairs Minister Scott Morrison and Communications Minister Mitch Fifield said suppliers would be ruled out unless they can “adequately protect a 5G network from unauthorised access or interference”.

The statement did not specifically name Huawei or ZTE, but a tweet from Huawei confirmed the ban targets the China-based vendors.

Morrison said the government had worked closely with operators to ensure they understand their new obligations and are ready to comply when the legislation goes into effect on 18 September.

“The government has now provided carriers with clear guidance about how their new legal obligations apply to 5G networks,” he said.

Australia’s ban on supplying radio access network gear comes a week after the country’s media reported the government was not expected to bar Huawei from taking part in the country’s 5G network deployment, but the vendor would likely face new restrictions on the technologies it provides to mobile operators.

Security challenges
The government raised concerns that with 5G technologies the distinction between the core network and the edge of the network will disappear over time, which introduces new challenges for operators trying to maintain customers’ security, as sensitive functions move outside of the highly protected core environment.

In the joint statement, the ministers said: “This new architecture provides a way to circumvent traditional security controls by exploiting equipment in the edge of the network – exploitation which may affect overall network integrity and availability, as well as the confidentiality of customer data.”

The Australian government has been pressured by the US to stop Chinese vendors from supplying network equipment to operators. Mobile operators in the US face a de facto ban on buying network gear from China-based companies due to national security concerns.

Last week the US passed a law banning government agencies and contractors from using equipment supplied by Chinese vendors as a “substantial or essential component of any system.”