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Is Optus, AAPT & Vodafone TPG Exposed After US China Telecom Ban

Local carriers Optus, TPG and networking Company AAPT are set to come under pressure to drop their relationship with China Telecom, after the US Federal Government revoked the US licence of the Chinese telco which is owned by the Chinese Communist Party overnight because of security concerns.

The US Government has ordered China Telecom to stop providing services in the USA within 60 days because of serious security concerns which in Australia appear to be of no concern to carriers, who use the services of China Telecom to connect communication systems for local enterprises and small business.

US officials claim the Chinese government’s control of the company gave it the opportunity “to access, store, disrupt, and/or misroute US communications”.

This in turn could allow it “to engage in espionage and other harmful activities against the US”, they said.

Chinese military and security operatives often spy on Australian businesses claim local security forces. 

China Telecom, which has provided telecoms services in the US for nearly 20 years, called the decision “disappointing”.

The local China Telecom (Australia) Corporation has been operating in Australia since January 2011, security agencies in Australia have been concerned about the Companies activities for several years as the Chinese Communist party have been spending billions building out services in the Asia-Pacific region.

China Telecom and China Mobile recently ran a ruler over Digicell Pacific which was eventually acquired by the Australian government and Telstra, in an effort to stop the Chinese Government from getting control of a key regional communication network.

The move by Australia is being viewed as a political block to China’s influence in the region.

Telstra called the $2.1bn deal a “unique and very attractive commercial opportunity to boost our presence in the region”.

Digicel Pacific employs 1,700 people across Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Samoa, Vanuatu and Tahiti.

China Telecom has built out nodes in Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, and Australia.

The Chinese carrier claims that the nodes will help China Telecom further extend the reach of its global services and network.

They recently established international service nodes in Sydney and Perth.

The Company said on their social media pages that ‘The move signals the Company’s intention to strengthen cooperation and explore business opportunities with major telecom operators on the basis of “drawing upon each other’s strengths, and win-win cooperation”, to cooperate with business partners for service quality improvement and joint value creation in the Asia-Pacific region”.

There was no mention of spying, security risks or the risks that business face having China Telecom technology in their communication networks.

In Australia they claim to have already penetrated banking, real estate, mining, and education institutions with their services.

China Telecom is one of three companies that dominate China’s telecoms market. The firm serves hundreds of millions of customers in 110 countries.

The decision comes hours after US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen spoke to China’s Vice Premier Liu, He about the state of the global economy.

The meeting had been seen as a sign of improving relations between the two superpowers, which have recently exchanged barbs over trade and Taiwan.

The Federal Communication Commission (FCC) warned it might shut down China Telecom Americas in April 2020, claiming the firm “is subject to exploitation, influence, and control by the Chinese government”

It said the company was “highly likely to be forced to comply with Chinese government requests without… independent judicial oversight”.

It is the latest Chinese telecoms firm to be targeted by US officials over national security concerns.

Last year, the FCC designated Huawei and ZTE as threats to communications networks – making it harder for US firms to buy equipment from them.

The FCC revoked China Mobile’s US licence in 2019 and is in process of doing so for two other state-backed firms – China Unicom Americas and Pacific Networks.

In all cases, US officials cited risks that the Chinese government could use the companies to spy on America or harm national interests.

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