Saskatchewan

SaskTel says Huawei equipment is safe and regularly tested

SaskTel says it is comfortable that using equipment from Chinese telecom giant Huawei doesn't compromise Canadians' privacy or security.

NDP leader Ryan Meili calling for steps to protect security

Daryl Godfrey, SaskTel's chief technology officer, speaks to reporters about SaskTel's involvement with Huawei, and his confidence that SaskTel's Huawei equipment is safe and properly tested. (Kirk Fraser/CBC News)

SaskTel says it is comfortable that using equipment from Chinese telecom giant Huawei doesn't compromise Canadians' privacy or security.

"I'm quite comfortable with the security measures we've taken and the testing that's done on our equipment," said SaskTel chief technology officer Daryl Godfrey.

On Tuesday, the Saskatchewan NDP called for greater transparency about the place Huawei's equipment has in SaskTel's infrastructure and the security measures being taken. 

SaskTel uses Huawei equipment in its radio access network, or the radios and antennas that provide the connection between people's cell phones and cell towers. This equipment is tested regularly by an independent third party and it is separate from SaskTel's core network, according to Godfrey.

"From what I've seen, their equipment is quite safe and there are no malicious holes in it."

SaskTel's relationship with the telecom giant goes back to 2010, when SaskTel began building its 3G network, according to Godfrey. SaskTel also sells three Huawei devices and uses its equipment for fixed wireless internet services in rural areas.

The Crown corporation is also in the process of developing its 5G network. While it has not decided how it will be delivering this service, Godfrey said if Huawei equipment is used again, it will once again be limited to use for the radio access network.

Australia and New Zealand have banned Huawei from being a part of future 5G mobile networks, while security experts and former Prime Minister Stephen Harper have warned against using Huawei in 5G networks.  

NDP raises red flag

NDP leader Ryan Meili said Tuesday he has sent a letter to Premier Scott Moe calling on the provincial government to take action to protect Saskatchewan's networks and customers. The telecom giant has come under heavier scrutiny since its CFO Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Vancouver last December.

"It's very clear that we want to make absolutely certain that there's no security risks because of Huawie's involvement in Sasktel," Meili said.

Sask. NDP leader Ryan Meili says he would like to see the province take every step to make sure SaskTel's use of Huawei equipment protects safety and security. (CBC News)

Meili said he was not calling for an end to SaskTel's involvement with Huawei, but for the province to take steps to protect security. These include:

  • A full report on the connections between SaskTel and Huawei and the measures taken to protect consumers' privacy and security.
  • Requesting Canadian Security Intelligence Services (CSIS) to review the links between SaskTel and Huawei, weighing in on any potential for espionage.
  • A moratorium on contracts between SaskTel and Huawei.
  • An assessment on how much it would cost to end current contracts with Huawei and remove technology that poses a risk.

"Hopefully Premier Moe's reading the news, paying attention to this and willing to take the necessary steps to be absolutely certain we're fully protected," said Meili.

SaskTel warns of millions in losses

Godfrey said it would cost millions for SaskTel to end its relationship with Huawei, as it would have to rip out and replace current equipment. Severing ties would also be a competitive disadvantage, delaying the launching of 5G network by roughly three years, he said.

Godfrey said SaskTel will abide with any measures set forth by the federal government.

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