Huawei Told Not to Apply for Australian Broadband Project

Huawei called Australia's ban on the company from supplying equipment for its national broadband project due to security concerns a "setback."

The Australian Financial Review reported on Saturday that Huawei's chairman for Australia was told by a top official in the Attorney General's office that the company would not be allowed to supply equipment for the National Broadband Network (NBN) because of worries over cyberattacks originating from China.

The advice reportedly came from the Australian Security Intelligence Organization. Huawei's corporate affairs director, Jeremy Mitchell, told Sky News that "we know the bar is set a little bit higher for us because of our Chinese origin."

The company has offered governments including Australia the chance to review its source code and allowed auditing of its IT equipment, Mitchell said, according to an interview transcript provided by the company.

A spokesman for the Attorney-General's office said on Monday that discussions with telecommunication companies are confidential. In regards to the NBN, "as a strategic and significant government investment, we have a responsibility to do our utmost to protect its integrity and that of the information carried on it."

The AU$36 billion (US$37.6 billion) NBN project aims to bring fiber optic broadband connectivity to 93 percent of Australian homes by 2020.

Huawei, one of the largest suppliers of telecommunications equipment, has fought concerns for years that its products might be secretly altered or planted with malicious software.

In June 2010, Alcatel-Lucent won the contract to supply gigabit passive optical network equipment (GPON) for Australia's NBN. GPON is an IP based system that allows multiple homes or business to share a fiber connection from a service provider's central office. The technology is one of Huawei's specialties, but according to Monday's Australian Financial Review, the company was not allowed to submit a tender.

Mitchell said the company is involved in eight of the nine major national broadband projects underway worldwide, including the U.K.'s 21st Century Network, a major nation broadband project, where it has been the sole supplier for the last six years. Additionally, the company said it already works with all of Australia's major operators.

"It's a new era for everyone, and we're confident that we can get over this hurdle," Mitchell said during the interview.

In December 2010, Huawei opened a security testing center in the U.K. in order for its hardware and software to be tested by organizations such as

the U.K.'s National Technical Authority for Information Assurance.

Send news tips and comments to jeremy_kirk@idg.com

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