Australia blocks Huawei bids


AUSTRALIA has banned Chinese technology giant Huawei from bidding to help build a nationwide high-speed Internet network.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said yesterday the move was among "prudent decisions" to ensure the planned network functions properly.

Huawei Technologies Ltd is one of the world's biggest producers of the switching equipment that forms the heart of phone and data networks. The company rejected suggestions it might be a security risk and said it had won the trust of global telecoms carriers.

The Australian attorney general's office told Huawei late last year it would be barred from bidding for work on the A$36 billion (US$38 billion) network, according to The Australian Financial Review newspaper.

It said the decision was prompted by Australian intelligence officials who cited "hacking attacks" traced to China.

Huawei said it was disappointed at the decision. It has operated in Australia since 2004 and already works with the country's major telecoms carriers.

"Huawei will continue to be open and transparent and work to find ways of providing assurance around the security of our technology," it said.

China is Australia's biggest trading partner and Chinese demand for iron ore and other minerals has driven an Australian economic boom.

Plans approved by Australian politicians in 2010 call for building a fiber-optic network to provide high-speed Internet access to 90 percent of the country's homes.

Huawei said it is building similar networks in Britain, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia and other countries.

"You don't get to that level of success unless you have customers that trust your company, your staff and your technology," it said.

Gillard said the planned Australian network was a crucial national project.

"You would expect, as a government, we would make all of the prudent decisions to make sure that that infrastructure project does what we want it to do, and we've taken one of those decisions," she said, when asked about Huawei.

She gave no details of the reason for the decision.

Huawei was founded in 1987 by a former Chinese military engineer but says it has no connection to the military.

Huawei had been endorsed as a bidder on the Australian project by the technical department of the government-owned National Broadband Network Co, the Financial Review said. It said the attorney general blocked that after intelligence officials objected.


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