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Huawei crackdown

Malaysia open to Huawei for 5G equipment, authority chief says

Security agency has 'no objection' after investigating cyberespionage claims

Huawei is a longtime supplier of broadband routers, network controllers and data center switches to Malaysian telecommunications companies.   © Reuters

KUALA LUMPUR -- Malaysia has no objection to China's Huawei Technologies participating in the country's 5G network rollout, as Western countries continue to make accusations that the company's equipment could facilitate data leaks to Beijing.

Southeast Asia's third-largest economy is expected to announce spectrum allocations for 5G service providers in the second half of 2020, Al-Ishsal Ishak, chairman of the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission told the Nikkei Asian Review.

Huawei is a longtime supplier of broadband routers, network controllers and data center switches to Malaysian telecommunications companies.

Al-Ishsal said a comprehensive report on an investigation into allegations that Huawei's 5G equipment could aid Chinese spies has been submitted to Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad by the National Cyber Security Agency, a bureau of the National Security Council.

There is "no objection for Huawei to participate" in Malaysia's 5G rollout, Al-Ishsal stressed, adding that Mahathir's recent visit to Huawei's research center near Beijing testifies to Malaysia's friendly approach toward the Chinese tech company.

"Cybersecurity is an issue that involves all service providers," Al-Ishsal said. "Thus Huawei is not special. We continue to monitor [the matter] because these things are dynamic and can [constantly] change. If we find any wrong behavior by any parties, not only Huawei, then we will call it out and advise the government and the National Cyber Security Agency.

The awarding of 700 MHz spectrum has been delayed since the first quarter of 2018, following the government's move to call for a public inquiry. Among the front-runners are Malaysia's top three phone service providers: Maxis, DiGi.Com and Celcom Axiata.

Al-Ishsal said the 700 MHz allocation will enable telcos to roll out both 4G and 5G services, depending on the capability of the respective telco and needs on the ground.

Huawei, one of the few global 5G equipment providers, is primarily a smartphone maker but is growing both businesses in tandem.

The alleged risks of Huawei's 5G equipment facilitating the eavesdropping on corporations and other concerns have forced Western countries to exclude Huawei from providing the equipment. Australia, New Zealand, the U.K. and U.S. have banned Huawei from participating in their 5G networks.

5G is considered the next iteration of mobile connectivity, the successor to 4G Long-Term Evolution (LTE). The technology will allow for significantly faster smartphone data connectivity, enable autonomous vehicles and smart home networks, and improve rural fixed internet connections.

While Huawei is banned from bidding for government contracts, particularly 5G projects, in the United States, the Donald Trump administration has warned other advanced economies that Huawei's 5G equipment may contain "back doors" that could be used for cyberespionage.

Late last year, pieces of equipment supplied by Huawei were removed from an emergency services' communications system developed in the United Kingdom. Germany was reported to consider stricter security standards to effectively block the Chinese company from its 5G rollout, and the Netherlands' largest telco has indicated that Huawei will not be allowed to supply core 5G equipment, though the company is open to procuring "less-sensitive products."

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