How Chinese telco Huawei runs Australia

It's the phone company at the centre of an international espionage thriller, with allegations it is secretly harvesting information from Australians for the Chinese government and is even responsible for helping the Iran regime.

But, in Australia, the company behind one recent arrest and bans in three countries is quietly helping the trains run on time.

Chinese firm Huawei has been operating in Australia for almost 15 years, and currently employs more than 700 people in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth to run a significant number of Australian infrastructure projects.

A company spokesman said Australian smartphone users on the Optus or Vodafone network had likely used Huawei equipment without knowing it, and it also provided all of TPG's modems.

Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou was arrested over allegations she helped sell equipment to Iran.
Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou was arrested over allegations she helped sell equipment to Iran.

"We provide almost 50 per cent of Australians with their daily communications needs over our kit," he said.

The firm provides all of Vodafone's 4G base stations, in a deal negotiated after its "Vodafail" issues, and delivers 60 per cent of the base stations used by Australia's second largest carrier, Optus.

The controversial company also provides communications for train networks in Sydney and Perth, the latter after a $136 million contract signed in July, just days before a ban was handed down on its involvement in Australian 5G mobile phone networks.

Huawei was also banned from providing equipment and services to the National Broadband Network in July 2017.

Despite this restriction, Huawei still delivers communications services for the New South Wales ambulance service, wi-fi connections at the Gold Coast's Metricon Stadium, and communications in several Australian educational institutions, including the University of Tasmania, James Cook University, and Southern Cross University.

Even though it operates widely in Australia, Huawei has come under increased worldwide scrutiny after its chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, was arrested on December 1 over allegations she helped sell equipment to Iran. The United States is seeking her extradition from Canada.

The move has been protested by China, who called her detainment "extremely bad," and could incite a trade war between the two nations.