Australia red-flags Chinese cable project
January 2, 2018 -- An undersea cable project by China’s Huawei, aimed at delivering internet to the Solomon Islands, has been banned from connecting to Australia’s broadband network on the advice of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO). Instead, Canberra will majority-fund the US$85 to $100 million project.
The plan, which was to connect the Solomons and Papua New Guinea to Sydney via a 4,500-kilometre submarine fibre optic cable laid by a U.S.-British firm, had the backing of the Asian Development Bank for a $23 million loan. But in July 2016, the Solomons government abruptly switched to a subsidiary of Chinese telecom giant Huawei.
In 2012, amid ASIO concerns that Beijing could use the company’s telecommunication equipment for spying, Huawei was banned from tendering for Australia’s National Broadband Network (NBN).
Also in 2012, the U.S. House Intelligence Committee reported that Huawei and ZTE, a fellow Chinese telecom giant, posed a threat to U.S. national security. The committee concluded that neither Huawei nor ZTE could be trusted “to be free of foreign state influence” — the foreign state being China.
In Europe, by contrast, Huawei has supplied so-called operational technology (OT) to the UK, Germany and Spain. OT refers to computing systems that are used to manage mission-critical industrial operations such as power consumption on gas or electricity grids. More than 60 percent of the company’s $33.2 billion global revenue in 2016 came from selling OT network equipment.
Huawei’s marine networks division is a joint venture with Global Marine Systems, a UK company. Since 2018, Huawei Marine Networks has won contracts to install 40,000km of submarine cable, enough to encircle the planet.