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Who’s building our broadband network?

Written By: - Date published: 12:24 pm, March 27th, 2012 - 48 comments
Categories: infrastructure, International, telecommunications - Tags:

The Nats selected Chinese company Huawei to build the Ultrafast Broadband network in Waikato and Canterbury after Joyce and English visited them in China. Now, the company’s been banned from Australia’s UFB project because of links to Chinese espionage. Key’s shrugged it off. Maybe there’s a risk, maybe not. But our government should give a damn and investigate. Its indifference makes it look compromised.

And Huawei has form on that front:

“A U.S. Army Strategic Studies Institute report on Argentina published in September 2007 describes Huawei as “known to bribe and trap clients”. The report further details unfair business practices, such as customers framed by “full-paid trips” to China and monetary “presents” to be offered and later used by Huawei as “a form of extortion””

48 comments on “Who’s building our broadband network? ”

  1. vto 1

    You do realise of course that you will be labelled racist for daring to question anything about the Chinese.

    I would also suggest that the practices mentioned are equally common amongst US and European companies. And probably east european and middle east companies. And definitely African ones like Nigeria. The South Americans would likely do it as well if they had the means. And definitely the aussies. Better to not communicate then its not a issue.

    • Matt 1.1

      Yes they’re equally prevalent. Take for instance all the accusations of espionage and blackmail levelled at Cisco Systems. Oh wait..

      • Colonial Viper 1.1.1

        Cisco Systems does that on behalf of the US Government. No problem there, we’re “friends” after all.

    • It’s not like Chinese espionage isn’t a credible problem, and I’m sure we’d all be fine if an ethical Chinese company was involved that intended to source plenty of labour from New Zealand- but good luck finding one, the Chinese government is entangled with most of their companies and doesn’t really believe in the same ethical standards that ordinary people over there do.

  2. Kotahi Tane Huna 2

    Interesting ownership structure:

    Huawei is headquartered in China and due to prevailing Chinese legal issues, overseas employees cannot, unfortunately, own shares.”

    • Colonial Viper 2.1

      Sorry you foreigners cannot own shares in strategic Chinese infrastructure related assets. See how it works?

      • Kotahi Tane Huna 2.1.1

        By comparison, China Telecom Corp Ltd ADS is majority owned by the Chinese government, but is listed on the Hong Kong and New York stock exchanges.

        • Colonial Viper 2.1.1.1

          Yes point taken, the Chinese have picked and chosen what they will keep closely held and what they will take public. No hard and fast rules, just hard and fast strategic thinking.

    • Conal 2.2

      “Unless and until Huawei becomes a stand-alone widely held listed company with employees free to trade their shares and without a controlling shareholder, these suspicions and allegations will likely continue,”

      Translation: Huawei is a socialist enterprise (a worker-owned cooperative) and therefore can’t be trusted. If the company were privatised and became a capitalist enterprise (with tradeable shares) then all would be fine.

  3. TheMiddlePath 3

    Just so I get this right, Zetetic …you’re implying that every single company, government and individual who ever bought and/or used Huawei equipment – one of the world’s biggest network equipment suppliers – is complicit in Chinese espionage?

  4. The Baron 4

    Yo Zetty,

    How and when did the Nats make that decision, when it was the Council-owned Enable Networks that decided their tech partner in Christchurch; and Trust-owned WEL Networks who decided their tech partner for the Waikato build?

    It takes about two seconds on google to check this stuff too.

    Oh noes, another retarded smear from Zetty. Nice work on the zenophobic dog whistle yet again tho.

  5. Enough is Enough 5

    “The Nats selected Chinese company Huawei to build the Ultrafast Broadband network in Waikato and Canterbury”

    Source please.

    • Colonial Viper 5.1

      Huawei is a leading designer, manufacturer and supplier of network and telecoms infrastructure equipment. Quite different from digging the ground up and laying cables.

      • Enough is Enough 5.1.1

        I not quite sure what the point of your comment was.

        I enjoy giving it to the Nats as much as anyone but in this case I am fairly certain they did not choose Huawei.

        We begin to look like the boy who cried wolf if we try to blame them for everything.

        WEL is not part of the National party and doesn’t take directing from them.

        http://www.ultrafastbroadband.co.nz/news-and-media/2011/11/2141741268/Ultrafast-Fibre-Ltd-to-deploy-Huawei's-Fibre-to-the-Home-access-network-technology-for-UBL

      • Enough is Enough 5.1.2

        I am not sure what the point of your comment was.

        The Nats do not have any relationship with WEL so I am not sure where Zet got this from and am very curious to find out.

        I like giving it to the Nats as much as anyone but if we make unsubstantiated slurs we begin to look like the boy who cried wolf. The real crimes they are committing will be ignored if we get these ones wrong.

        • Kotahi Tane Huna 5.1.2.1

          This from yesterday’s Stuff story:

          “Trade Minister Tim Groser, Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce and Finance Minister Bill English visited the company in China after Prime Minister John Key singled out the firm for possible involvement in the UFB network.

          New Zealand Trade and Enterprise helped arrange a visit by top Huawei executives to Auckland and Wellington earlier this month to explore opportunities for it to purchase from Kiwi firms.

          Huawei has won contracts with Chorus, Wel Networks and Enable to supply equipment for the $3.5 billion UFB and the $300m rural broadband initiative.

          A significant amount of Huawei-branded equipment was evident at Chorus’ phone exchange in Papatoetoe, where Chorus is trialling equipment for the UFB rollout in November.”

          • The Baron 5.1.2.1.1

            Ooh the smoking gun!

            Whoops, none of this states that any of those Ministers had anything to do with the decisions made by WEL, Enable and Chorus as independently run and managed companies, does it?

            Wanna try again?

            • Kotahi Tane Huna 5.1.2.1.1.1

              How about you take that up with Fairfax media?

              Obviously Jason Bourne thinks he has a say in the matter. This from today’s Stuff story:

              “Prime Minister John Key said from Korea yesterday there were no plans to drop Huawai from the ulta-fast broadband rollout, despite Australia’s move against the company.”

              • The Baron

                This is a smoking gun?!

                I’m guessing that this is a reference to reserve powers that CFH may have to override WEL or Enable’s decisions. Again, completely different to being involved in the original decision made by independent, and in two cases community owned, companies in the first place, though isn’t it?

                Do you want a third try? Or would you like to admit that just like Zetty, you don’t have any fucking idea what you’re talking about and are just looking for another desperate, zenophobic smear?

                • Kotahi Tane Huna

                  “Zenophobic (sic) smear.”

                  I’d like to know where you see any xenophobia in my interest in this topic, Baron.

                  I don’t particularly feel threatened by the concept of spying: if it’s war we’re worried about, to begrudge the use of spies would be the heart of inhumanity.

                  • The Baron

                    Look, I’ve got no interest in whatever crazy rabbit hole you’re trying to get into here.

                    The point that both you and Zetty have mistaken is that none of these decisions have anything to do with the National Party. The decisions were made by independently incorporated, and in two cases community owned, businesses.

                    Your Fairfax story doesn’t bridge that gap.

                    This really is quite simple. Now you can get wood about spy movies and playing James Bond as much as you like, but none of this has anything to do with the Govt.

                    • Kotahi Tane Huna

                      Baron, it was the Fairfax story that inspired the interest in the first place.

                      Of course this has something to do with the government. Not the National Party, the government. Do you think discussion of such matters is futile?

                      Perhaps you missed my quote but just to make myself perfectly clear:

                      之勝,而愛爵祿百金,不知敵之情者,不仁之至也

                    • lprent

                      Like the independently incorporated community owned businesses that we have here in Auckland?

                      The Ports of Auckland for instance with a board that is not appointed or governed by the local community, has not any actual accountability to it, and whose members were appointed (indirectly) almost entirely by a past Minister of the Crown. The boards in Auckland that most suspect are just doing the central government’s will with a figleaf of “independence”. Is that the type of “independently incorporated” “community owned” business you were talking about?

                      Or were you talking about the type of “independent” business that gets its funding almost entirely from the government? And is therefore completely beholden to taking hints from central government?

                      Basically you’re talking crap with a few labels that don’t bear much examination.

                      This government doesn’t allow “independent” boards. You only have to look at the sackings that Tony Ryall specialised in in the DHB’s trying to stamp out any independence or the Rodney Hide theft of community assets in Auckland that were stuck under his mates control.

                      If you want to use the argument that these are “independent” bodies. Then it’d behove you to prove that rather than just asserting it – then people might start listening rather than treating you as a gullible idiot.

  6. insider 6

    This is hilarious – Standardistas acting as lapdogs of the US industrial military complex and our South Pacific Yank cousins, and attacking an employee owned company (the day after demanding more employees on boards) and to what purpose? All just to score a cheap shot on Key and Joyce. Hilarious.

    Did you ever consider that this is actually all about patch protection by US telecoms providers and not really about security?

    In the UK, Huawei provided BT’s new network backbone and is working with mobile networks on 4G trials. To allay British espionage or sabotage fears it has hired the Government’s former IT chief, John Suffolk, as a cyber security executive, and allowed specialists from GCHQ to inspect its technology.

    • Kotahi Tane Huna 6.1

      I’m more interested in the position it puts Jason Bourne John Key in – caught between his party’s financial backers and his country’s traditional allies, getting poked with a stick by the local media, desperately wanting to show how spyerrific he is while keeping a tight ship on a need to know basis 🙂

    • Matt 6.2

      “This is hilarious – Standardistas acting as lapdogs of the US industrial military complex”

      Ha. the old condemn something as a conspiracy theory by proffering your own conspiracy theory? Irony much, fucktard?

      • Kotahi Tane Huna 6.2.1

        I confess. I am a running dog of the US military industrial complex, but I have to say it doesn’t pay well. I am getting to the point where I think my running dog services may be better employed in my local community.

  7. Kotahi Tane Huna 7

    The US military has given up pretending that their IT systems are secure, and focusses instead on observing attacks and minimising damage.

    So perhaps it doesn’t ultimately matter who the system belongs to. Time to dust off that copy of Pretty Good Privacy (or equivalent) and get serious about using it.

    In classical terms, the network is a “dead spy”. Dead spies are used to spread misinformation. Situation normal, in other words.

  8. Conal 8

    The Australian federal govt’s decision has been widely derided here in Australia. I’m no fan of Key by any means, but he’s quite correct not to buy into this Cold War paranoia, which is pure theatre, without technical merit.

  9. Crony capitalism by National or Corus, does it really matter that much who it is? OK maybe it does BUT the fact is hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars is going to be used for the project so reality check everyone: the government does have a stake in this.

  10. prism 10

    There is an interview Wednesday morning by radionz with the british face of the Chinese firm and
    others I think.

    • insider 10.1

      It was kind of funny that Kathryn Ryan was quoting a Northrop Grumman ‘report’ that was critical of Huawei’s links with the Chinese army and govt. NG are kneedeep in the US govt and military and have a former joint chiefs of staff head on the board as well as an ex us navy admiral. It would be hard to be more connected with a govt and military.

      What exactly is the threat that people are worried about and how different is that than if the systems were provided by Google or IBM or LUcent – all of which I bet the NSA have their noses well into

      • DH 10.1.1

        The threat is security being compromised at the hardware level. The basic rule of network security is that if you permit access to the hardware then you have no security. That’s why Cisco for example freely give away password recovery procedures for most of their IOSs.

        I don’t know the level of home-baked design in Chinese chip manufacturing but I do know that embedded codes can be inserted into chips at the design/manufacturing stage and it would be extremely difficult if not impossible to find them. Security experts can reverse engineer software to find exploits, hidden code etc, but they’d find it a lot tougher with backdoor exploits hardwired into the circuitry.

        I guess it all comes down to China’s intentions & whether they can be trusted or not.

        • insider 10.1.1.1

          The problem with that argument is that an increasingly large part of the hardware for all sorts of devices comes from China, along with increasing levels of design. The Huawei guy said it is just not possible to exert the level of control that some suggest given the multiple systems and software that go into a system. It is James Bond territory to think a black box can be inserted that will monitor and/or control it.

          This is not about military security it is about an economic challenger upsetting the status quo.

          I’m not an apologist for China nor particularly interested in its politics, but if you stand back from the issue and consider it a matter of trust, we should be equally fearful of US powers and intent (if not more so based on capability and history – and I’m saying that as a strong yankophile). China is no longer intent on exporting global socialist revolution and the central committee doesn’t control everything every chinese business does. We very quickly got over mistrust of Germany after WW2, we probably need to do the same about China rather than follow the creepy xenophobic dogwhistling of Gareth the green.

          • muzza 10.1.1.1.1

            “It is James Bond territory to think a black box can be inserted that will monitor and/or control it” – Don’t know much about technology then, and any gadgets “James Bond” like, will have been far surpassed by the time Sean Connery was using them.

            I agree with your comments about the US and other tech firms having just as much to not trust as anyone else, including the chinese!

            The question really becomes, what is it that any firm might want to steal!

            • insider 10.1.1.1.1.1

              Muzza

              the james bond bit was a paraphrase of the former UK Govt head of IS who now works for Huawei. I think his point was that these network being discussed are so diverse geographically and in componentry that it is not possible for a single supplier to do so without someone’s compliance in the organisation/country that owns the system.

          • DH 10.1.1.1.2

            It is very definitely about military security. Anything involving the internet backbone is all about security.

            • insider 10.1.1.1.2.1

              The US military has its own secure networks. Whether they are hardwired separately I don’t know but does it matter? Any communciations with overseas bases could travel through ‘unfriendly’ networks so would need some high level protection from interception just as its local traffic might.

              • Pascal's bookie

                The US military has its own secure networks.

                Yeah. Ask Bradley Manning 😉

              • DH

                No network is totally secure, give someone access to the hardware and any LAN can be compromised. Ethernet is a broadcast medium, set up a port on the switch as a mirror and you can catch every packet sent on the (wired) network using a simple packet sniffer.

                From an espionage viewpoint all you’d want to do is relay (secure) traffic to a segment of the network or internet you have physical control of & where you can catch the packets. That doesn’t need James Bond black box BS, can do that in software, firmware or hardware.

                • Con

                  Exactly, and the only defence against interception is encryption. If your data is encrypted when you send it, and decrypted when you receive it, then it makes no difference whether you sent it over some special “private” network or the public internet, ethernet, wireless, through routers made by Huawei or Cisco or anybody. That’s why the rationale for this discrimination is bullshit.

                  • insider

                    As a non techie that was how I was thinking re use of networks and encryption.

                    @ DH

                    Yes you all you might need is some diversion tool, but how much data are you talking about capturing and diverting? Unless you specifically know what you want, you are going to be trawling huge volumes of data and we are talking about broadband networks not a specific compuer or LAN. That means you need big computers to analyse and big pipes to get it there, all of which would be quite noticable if placed by one country in another sovereign state.

  11. aerobubble 11

    The problem of corporate spying and its cost on NZ. Arguably why would you expect Key to care about losses to NZ business from intellectual theft, I mean he’s happy to sell our productive industrial and agricultural core to the Chinese. Despite China not allowing the same access to their economy. And hey its not like China does have booming copyright breaching industries.

    Key see no, hear no, speak no, hollow politics.

  12. hoom 12

    US manufacturers almost certainly leave backdoors for US govt agencies.
    Pretty sure its a National Security requirement.

    So what if a Chinese manufacturer does the same?
    At worst its the same but open to different people, at best Huawei actually may be more secure.

    • Kotahi Tane Huna 12.1

      Most networks are assumed to be compromised already.

      The interesting issue here is the tension between the National Party’s obligations to its owners and its obligations to the country’s traditional allies.

  13. Fortran 13

    The workmen laying our fibre cables do not look Chinese to me – maybe they are in disguise.

    • insider 13.1

      the reflections off their fluoro jackets mask their features. The fluoros are suspiciously made in China…you do the maths.

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