In 5G networks, the emphasis is more on software instead of hardware. That means an equipment provider, or even a malicious third party that is able to gain access, can potentially have a much clearer view of what goes on inside the network — such as monitoring data transfers, tracking locations of cell phone users or eavesdropping on conversations.
"Now, the company, the entity that provides that, that maintains it, that has constant access to it, has enormous capability, if it chose to do so, to act adversely to your interest," Turnbull said, about firms that sell 5G equipment needed to build the ultra fast mobile network.
"No one is suggesting that Huawei would do that, certainly not me. I have great admiration for the company," he said. "But, capability takes a long time to put in place. Intent can change in a heartbeat, so, you have got to hedge and take into account the risk that intent can change in the years ahead," Turnbull added.
Though Huawei has had tremendous success getting ahead in the 5G race — still at its nascent stage — the firm is facing mounting fears that its technology will enable Chinese espionage through the high-speed mobile networks. Apart from Australia, other countries including the United States, New Zealand and Japan have blocked the company from participating in 5G development within their borders.