KUALA LUMPUR: Affordability is among the reasons behind Malaysia’s continued support for Huawei as it looks to tap into the great potential of the 5G technology, said Malaysia's telecommunications industry regulator, despite security concerns raised by the United States over the Chinese telecommunications giant’s systems.
“Malaysia telcos are very much into Huawei and ZTE because they are affordable,” said Ms Nur Sulyna Abdullah, the chief transformation officer of Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), on Wednesday (Jun 26).
“Everyone is racing into 5G technology. In Malaysia, everyone wants to know about its potential – how are we going to use it to ease traffic, to enhance security, in agriculture and health,” she said in a panel at the 33rd Asia-Pacific Roundtable, a regional conference hosted by Malaysia’s Institute of Strategic and International Studies.
On security risks, Ms Nur Sulyna said these are not just exclusive to Huawei technology but “any device that has Wi-Fi capability”.
She added that she believed such risks that arise along with the changing trends in digital economy could be managed with global cyber-security measures and cooperation with the private sector.
Telecommunications and wireless technology are at the forefront of the trade war between the world’s largest economies, with the Trump administration barring Shenzhen-based Huawei from next-generation telecommunications networks in America and restricting US technology sales to Huawei for national security reasons.
In December last year, Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Canada and was subsequently indicted by the US for allegedly violating Iran sanctions and committing bank and wire fraud - accusations that Huawei had denied.
As US lobbies its allies to block Huawei’s 5G equipment, Malaysia has come out in support of Huawei publicly.
Following a visit to Huawei’s Beijing office in April, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad promised in a forum in Tokyo last month that Malaysia would use Huawei’s technology "as much as possible", saying that it was more advanced than American technology.
Dr Mahathir reportedly said he was not concerned over allegations of espionage activities, because Malaysia is “an open book”.
When delivering his keynote address at the Asia-Pacific Roundtable on Tuesday, Dr Mahathir said his government would not be caught up in the US-China trade war and expressed hopes that the two nations would seek an amicable solution for the benefit of all.
“I hope the US and China will soon see enough sense to replace conflict with cooperation. Everyone will stand to gain much more when we collaborate with each other,” he said.
However, director of European Centre for International Political Economy Hosuk Lee-Makiyama noted that a diplomatic solution is not easily attainable, as technology-related concerns are not simply about rivalry or protectionism.
China has also imposed severe restrictions on European equipment made by Sweden and Finland, he said.
“It’s not because they are competing. It’s because there is genuine risk. They are both behaving in the exact same manner in order to address the risk that cannot be solved diplomatically,” he said in the Wednesday panel.
Speaking on the same panel, a professor from China's Tsinghua University proposed using artificial intelligence to guard against security risks.
Professor Liang Zheng from the university's School of Public Policy and Management, said data is a key asset of great value in the 5G area.
“There might be some security issues related to 5G technology, as it is with any other technologies," he said.
"But such issues can be solved through better technologies such as artificial intelligence and better governance framework, either domestically or globally."