Philippines’ top telco looks to other 5G suppliers amid Huawei concerns

25-Feb-2019 Intellasia | Straits Times | 6:00 AM Print This Post

The Philippines’ largest telecommunications company is looking to other vendors of 5G equipment, as it acknowledges security concerns raised by the United States against Chinese tech giant Huawei.

Security experts have said the government should look closer at Huawei’s supply deals with the country’s telcos, following sweeping charges by the US outlining a decade-long attempt by the company to steal trade secrets, obstruct a criminal investigation and evade economic sanctions on Iran.

“I think part of the concern of the US is it would have military applications, and to the extent that a vendor might have access to data generated by the network and by mobile devices… We ourselves have communicated this concern to Huawei,” Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co (PLDT) chief executive Manuel Pangilinan told reporters on Thursday (February 21).

He said PLDT had asked Huawei to tell “us where the possible danger points are in terms of mobility and if they are able to access data generated by the network”.

“I think we ourselves have a heightened concern about security on the network and devices,” added Pangilinan.

He said PLDT is now also in talks with Sweden’s Ericsson, Finland’s Nokia, as well as China’s ZTE for its 5G needs.

But Huawei is “ahead of the others technically”, he said.

PLDT’s mobile phone unit, Smart Communications, and its rival Globe Telecom are set to roll out 5G wireless network services by the first half of the year.

The Philippines has more than 26 million smartphone users.

Smart fired up its first 5G station at the 9,450ha New Clark City, a former US military base, 90km north of the capital Manila, in November.

Both Smart and Globe are using equipment from Chinese firm Huawei for their 5G networks.

Acting Information and Communications Technology Secretary Eliseo Rio told senators in November that up to 80 per cent of the equipment Smart and Globe use in their networks already comes from Huawei.

Lawmakers have been investigating another Chinese company, China Telecom, as it holds a 40 per cent stake in a consortium that is set to become the Philippines’ third telco.

“Can we trust them?” Senator Grace Poe, who heads the public services committee, said in one hearing.

“It is not a secret that China Telecom is a government corporation of China… Are we allowing a substantial control of a portion of our Internet traffic for the purpose of furthering their interest? In fact, do we even have the capability to reduce, control or mitigate these risks?” she said.

Some senators have also raised concerns over a 20 billion peso (S$520 million) surveillance system in metropolitan Manila that will use hardware supplied by Huawei.


Category: Philippines

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