A GSCB report that could potentially block Chinese telco Huawei from rolling out parts of the 5G network is likely to report back this week, Newsroom understands.

The GCSB is required to complete a security report on any on any new telecommunications infrastructure under the Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Act. 

The spy organisation makes a security assessment of any new network. Following that assessment, there is a mitigation stage, where the GCSB would work with the telco to address any faults uncovered during the assessment.

The process ends with a recommendation being made to the GCSB minister, currently Andrew Little, on whether to allow the network to be rolled-out.

Later this week Little could approve the network, or ask for some GCSB security recommendations to be implemented.

Newsroom understands such a decision is imminent.

Huawei technology could be used in both the Spark and 5G networks. The company’s links to the Chinese Communist Party and the business environment in China, where even private companies must have strong Government connections, has led to Huawei being branded a security threat.

Australia has already banned the company from its 5G network. The United States has also effectively banned the technology and senators there are lobbying Canada to do the same. Germany is also said to be considering a ban.

Newsroom has reported that New Zealand could be under pressure from its partners in the Five Eyes security alliance to ditch Huawei.

The periphery and the core

Huawei was involved in the rollout of Spark and 2Degrees’ 4G networks with limited concern, but the rollout of 5G has raised eyebrows in the security community because of the way the 5G technology works.

Mobile networks can be separated into two parts: the core and the periphery. The core is the “brain” of the network, while the periphery mainly consists of the towers and other components that help connect cellphones to the core. 

Huawei’s technology is only used in the periphery of the network. This has allayed security concerns in the past, as the core was considered to be the part of the network  that it was most important to protect.

But 5G networks shift some of the functions of the core to the periphery, to enable greater faster speeds. Critics say this makes the periphery a target for attack too.

Spark and Huawei are on the defensive. The companies put out a press release last week proclaiming a “world-first” 5G trial which separated “access and core”. The release trumpeted the separation of the two parts of the network.

But the ultimate decision on Huawei’s role in the network rests with Little.

Huawei and Spark declined to comment.

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