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Saskatchewan shuns Huawei for SaskTel’s 5G network

Don Morgan said one reason Huawei will not be used in SaskTel’s 5G network is to follow its partners at Bell and Telus.
Don Morgan said one reason Huawei will not be used in SaskTel’s 5G network is to follow its partners at Bell and Telus. File / The Canadian Press

SaskTel is the latest Canadian telecommunications company to announce it will not use infrastructure from Huawei Technologies Inc. in its 5G network.

Don Morgan, the minister responsible for SaskTel, said one reason for the decision is to follow its partners at Bell and Telus.

Read more: Bell, Telus reveal 5G deals with European firms in major blow to Huawei

Another issue Morgan cited was security.

“When we go forward into 5G there’s the issues of security in the core network and what support you have from other governments, including the government of Canada,” Morgan explained.

“We in Saskatchewan have to go lockstep with Bell and Telus; that’s who we partner with.”

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Early in the month, Bell and Telus announced partnerships with two of Huawei’s European rivals.

Bell Canada said Sweden-based Ericsson will be its second supplier of the radio access network equipment that has been Huawei’s main product line in Canada since entering the market in 2008.

Telus Corp. announced that it had also selected Ericsson, as well as Nokia of Finland, as suppliers for its 5G networks.

Read more: U.S. sets new restrictions on Huawei, closes ‘loophole’

Morgan said following Bell and Telus will allow seamless roaming for SaskTel customers.

“It’s imperative that we have similar, compatible equipment offering very same or similar services,” Morgan said.

Saskatchewan NDP Leader Ryan Meili said he has been calling for a decision from the government to not use Huawei for over a year.

“They waited until other major telecoms have gone down the same road instead of showing leadership. That would have been a smart thing do to then,” Meili said.

“Ultimately, they’re following along and making the good decision after the fact.”

Click to play video 'Huawei decision on Canada’s 5G network is complicated' Huawei decision on Canada’s 5G network is complicated
Huawei decision on Canada’s 5G network is complicated – Feb 2, 2020

Morgan didn’t tie in the decision not to use Huawei with ongoing tensions between Canada and China.

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“We’ve had, in our province, a good working relationship with Huawei and the Chinese government,” Morgan said.

“We’ve had a multi-billion dollar trading relationship with China for a number of years and our 4G network… is an excellent product that works well, meets our needs and very competitively priced.”

The Chinese company wasn’t a household name in Canada prior to the arrest of Huawei Technologies chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver in December 2018,

Since Meng’s arrest, which has sparked a major rift between China and Canada and focused worldwide attention on Huawei, the federal government has been undecided about whether the Chinese company will be allowed in Canada’s 5G networks — which are currently being assembled.

Read more: China claims Canada has ‘double standard’ interfering with Kovrig, Spavor cases

Huawei’s participation in the construction of Canada’s 5G network has also become a major sticking point between Ottawa and Washington.

The U.S. has warned Canada, the United Kingdom and other allies that it will limit intelligence sharing with countries that have Huawei equipment in their 5G networks — citing the potential for spying by China, an allegation Huawei denies.

— With a file from the Canadian Press