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New Zealand Telecom Picks Nokia, Leaves Door Open for Huawei

By Dave Yin / Nov 19, 2019 02:15 AM / Business & Tech

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

Spark New Zealand, one of the country’s largest mobile service providers, plans to use 5G equipment from Finland’s Nokia Oyj rather than China’s Huawei Technologies, the company said Monday.

At the same time, Spark New Zealand said it isn’t giving up on partnering with the Chinese tech giant altogether. Company spokesman Arwen Vant confirmed to Caixin that Spark is withdrawing its 2018 application with the New Zealand government to use the Chinese supplier after a New Zealand intelligence agency blocked it for almost a year.

Nokia’s “Radio Access Network (RAN)” equipment will go into two installations of its next-generation network across the country, Spark said. The Finnish components will enable 5G wireless broadband in five rural locations in New Zealand’s South Island by the end of December, followed by other locations in March 2020.

Both stages have government approval. The March phase will be an extension of the company’s initial 5G launch in the city of Alexandra, which used Nokia, the company said.

The company also plans to roll out mobile and wireless broadband service in major cities starting in mid-2020, but the company did not specify a vendor and said this stage still needs a green light from regulators. When asked whether Huawei could be deployed, Vant said the company would make applications with authorities as the need arises.

Along with Nokia and South Korea’s Samsung, Huawei remains on Spark’s list of “preferred RAN equipment suppliers for 5G,” the company said.

Earlier this month Spark launched a private, isolated 5G pilot project in Auckland, New Zealand’s most populous city. The network, built exclusively for a sailing team, used Huawei equipment, suggesting that the company is still working with the Chinese tech giant in the absence of a blanket ban in the country.

While the move to impede the Huawei deal on national security grounds last year was widely interpreted as an outright ban of Huawei from the country’s 5G, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has made assertions to the contrary.

Spark said its approach to 5G is “multi-vendor” and that it is also using Cisco and Ericsson equipment in its core network.

Huawei’s murky ties to the Chinese state have led to accusations that the company could leverage its overseas telecom infrastructure for espionage purposes, allegations that the company denies and Beijing slams as “politically motivated.”

Among the Five Eyes nations — an intelligence alliance comprising New Zealand, Australia, Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. — the U.S. and Australia have fully banned Huawei from their 5G networks. Canada has yet to make a decision on the company, while reports suggest British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will allow Huawei into “non-contentious” parts of the U.K.’s 5G network.

Contact reporter Dave Yin (davidyin@caixin.com)

Related: New 5G Pilot Raises Questions About New Zealand’s Huawei Ban

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