Bell says it will be ready to deploy 5G in time even if Canada bans Huawei

The federal government is currently conducting two reviews, one on Huawei, the other on 5G in Canada

BCE CEO George Cope says a ban of Huawei would not impact Bell’s timeline to bring 5G technology to the Canadian market.

“If there was a ban or we chose a different supplier than Huawei, we are quite comfortable and all those developments would be addressed within our traditional capital intensity envelope and therefore no impact from a capital expenditure program.” Cope said during the company’s Q4 2018 results conference call.

Canada’s relationship with China has soured since the beginning of December when Canadian authorities arrested Huawei’s global CFO Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver. Meng, who is also the daughter of Huawei president and founder Ren Zhengfei, was arrested on fraud-related charges.

The U.S. laid 13 charges of bank and wire fraud against Meng, Huawei and its subsidiary Skycom. She currently faces extradition to the U.S.

Bell, along with its competitor Telus, have invested millions of dollars to prepare for their future 5G technology rollout. If a ban is implemented by the federal government, they could stand to lose as much as $1 billion.

“Huawei has been a supplier…for our 3G and 4G mobile networks for a number of years with, of course, the Canadian government’s support,” Cope said. “We do not use Huawei network in our core and everyone knows the government is conducting a cyber security review whether to permit the continued use of Huawei equipment for 5G.”

During a sit-down interview in Ottawa on Parliament Hill on January 31st, Innovation, Science and Economic Minister Navdeep Bains said that whatever the results of the review are, the government would support the carriers in its deployment of 5G networks.

Currently, there are two ongoing reviews of Huawei by Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale’s department. Bains told MobileSyrup that the government has been having ongoing conversations with Canada’s allies to understand what they are doing and what their experiences have been.

But there is growing pressure from Canada’s allies.

Out a stated fear of cybersecurity attacks, the U.S. banned the Chinese telecommunications giant from providing 5G equipment in August 2018.

Following the U.S., Australia and New Zealand banned the company, as well. The three countries are members of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance, as is Canada and the U.K.

Shortly after all the news broke and continues to unfold, Bell, as well as Telus issued separate internal memos to their respective employees concerning the topic of Huawei.

“We clearly recognize the issues at play and we will manage those appropriately going forward and of course follow the law,” Cope said.