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Banning Huawei from building new 5G wireless network won’t really hurt Canada’s big telecom firms

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If the federal government moves to ban Huawei from working to build Canada’s new 5G network, it is unlikely to have a major financial impact on two of the country’s top communications companies who have partnered with the China-based firm, analysts say.

Huawei’s equipment is already used in telecommunications infrastructure run by Canada’s major cellphone carriers, namely BCE and Telus. Those two companies are currently in 5G pretrial stages with Huawei, a company some western intelligence officials consider a security risk due to its links with China’s government. 

As the next-generation wireless technology, 5G promises to deliver much faster internet download speeds — possibly up to 200 times faster than today’s LTE networks.

Desmond Lau, a telecommunications analyst with investment research firm Veritas, said BCE and Telus have not put a lot of capital into 5G trials, so the financial hit from a ban on Huawei’s participation wouldn’t be large.    

“It doesn’t sound like all that much has been spent on 5G,” Lau said, adding that neither company has disclosed what they have spent so far. 

“They also have Nokia as another 5G partner, so they could probably just switch all toward Nokia if they really needed to.”

BCE and Telus did not respond to inquiries from CBC News about their relationship with Huawei on building Canada’s 5G network. 

The Sydney Morning Herald, an Australian newspaper, has reported that Ottawa could announce a formal ban on Huawei building the 5G network within weeks. Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale has called those reports “speculation.”

‘Not arrived at a conclusion’

“The issues are being very carefully considered by Canadians. We have not arrived at a conclusion,” Goodale told CBC Radio’s The House.

According to a Scotiabank telecommunications report, both BCE and Telus use radio access networks (RANs), equipment located at the top and bottom of cell sites, produced by Huawei. 

“To our knowledge, Huawei does not supply the network core, which is software based and considered to be the most sensitive part of the network from a privacy and security perspective,” the report states.

For years, Huawei has been a source of concern for Western security officials, particularly the U.S., which has tried to convince other countries not to buy equipment from the company.

Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Minister Ralph Goodale calls reports that Ottawa will ban Huawei from Canada’s 5G network ‘speculation.’ (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Huawei denies allegations that it conducts espionage on behalf of China and has said it’s a market-driven business simply looking to compete internationally.

“Huawei has been working with Canadian operators on a number of pre-commercial trials in the lead up to 5G,” said Scott Bradley, a spokesman for Huawei Canada. “These efforts will ensure Canada is well positioned to be one of the early leaders in 5G globally, and will benefit Canadians in applications as diverse as greatly improving rural service, to spurring new innovations requiring increased speeds and capacity.”

This next generation technology will also open up what analysts refer to as the “internet of things,” which would allow everyday devices and machines be connected to a wireless network.

‘Ground-breaking trials’

 “These ground-breaking trials are laying the foundation for 5G, which will enable the likes of driverless cars; smart cities; new innovations in healthcare; as well as yet-to-be-imagined applications, devices and services powered by astonishingly fast and reliable wireless connections,” Telus said in a news release.

But with 5G, one of the concerns is that the network would be more vulnerable to attack. If Huawei has some kind of relationship with the Chinese government, the fear is that the company could install a “backdoor” in the 5G network, possibly allowing access to the network, and creating the potential for widespread disruption.

New Zealand and Australia have banned Huawei from working on their 5G networks. And British phone carrier BT said it would not use their equipment for its planned 5G mobile network. The U.K. company is removing Huawei equipment from the core of its existing 3G and 4G mobile phone networks.

If a similar move to rip out and replace existing Huawei infrastructure were to happen in Canada, it “would obviously be very costly,” according to the Scotiabank report.

Replacing Huawei products in Canada’s existing 3G and 4G mobile networks could cost more than $1.2 billion, Scotiabank’s report said. 

“If logic prevails, even if a ban was to occur, we think it would be on 5G only,” said the report. “We believe this will be more manageable” as there is “limited 5G equipment at the cell sites today.”

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Ottawa education workers still teaching special-ed students at schools want safety checks

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Some Ottawa educators say they are concerned about the safety of classrooms that remain open in schools for special-education students.

Ontario elementary and secondary students have been sent home to study virtually because of the dangers posed by rising rates of COVID-19. However, special-education classes are still operating at many bricks-and-mortar schools.

The special-education classes include students with physical and developmental disabilities, autism and behaviour problems. Some don’t wear masks and require close physical care.

Two unions representing teachers and educational assistants at the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board have sent letters to Ottawa Public Health expressing their concerns.

It’s urgent that public health officials inspect classrooms to assess the safety of the special-ed classes, said a letter from the Ottawa branch of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, which also represents the educational assistants who work with special-needs children.

“In the absence of reasons based on medical evidence to keep specialized systems classes open, we are unsure as to the safety of staff and students in these programs,” said the letter signed by president Stephanie Kirkey and other union executives.

The letter said staff agreed that students in specialized classes had difficulty with remote education and benefited most from in-person instruction.

“Our members care deeply about the students they work with and are not only concerned about their own health and safety, but also about that of their students, as they are often unable to abide by COVID safety protocols that include masking, physical distancing and hand hygiene, thus making it more likely that they could transmit the virus to one another,” the letter said.

The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board has 1,286 elementary and secondary students in special-education classes attending in person at 87 schools, said spokesperson Darcy Knoll.

While final numbers were not available, Knoll said the board believed a large number of the special-education students were back in class on Friday at schools.

In-person classes for other elementary and secondary students are scheduled to resume Jan. 25.

The school boards provide PPE for educators in special-education classes as required, including surgical masks, face shields, gloves and gowns.

Several educators interviewed said they don’t understand why it has been deemed unsafe for students in mainstream classes to attend class, but not special-ed students.

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Ottawa sets record of 210 new COVID-19 cases following lag in data reporting

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Ottawa has now broken its daily record for new COVID-19 cases twice in 2021, with 210 new cases added on Friday amid a lag in data reports from earlier in the week.

The nation’s capital has now seen 10,960 cases of the novel coronavirus.

Ottawa Public Health’s COVID-19 dashboard reports 977 active cases of the virus in Ottawa, a jump of more than 100 over Thursday’s figures.

One additional person has died in relation to COVID-19 in Ottawa, raising the city’s death toll in the pandemic to 395.

The record-setting case count comes a day after Ottawa reported a relatively low increase of 68 cases. Ontario’s COVID-19 system had meanwhile reported 164 new cases on Thursday.

OPH said Thursday that due to a large number of case reports coming in late Wednesday, the local system did not account for a large portion of cases. The health unit said it expects the discrepancy to be filled in the subsequent days.

Taken together, Thursday and Friday’s reports add 278 cases to Ottawa’s total, a daily average of 139 cases.

The new single-day record surpasses a benchmark set this past Sunday, when the city recorded 184 new cases.

Ontario also reported a new record of 4,249 cases on Friday, with roughly 450 of those cases added due to a lag in reporting in Toronto.

The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 also continues to climb in Ottawa. OPH’s dashboard shows there are currently 24 people in hospital with COVID-19, seven of whom are in the intensive care unit.

Three new coronavirus outbreaks were added to OPH’s dashboard on Friday. One outbreak affects a local shelter where one resident has tested positive for the virus, while the other two are traced to workplaces and private settings in the community.

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Ottawa family dealing with mould issue in apartment grateful for support

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OTTAWA — An Ottawa family, who has been dealing with mould in their south Ottawa apartment, is grateful for the support they have received from the community.

“I would like to say big very mighty, big thank you to everyone,” says Nofisat Adeniyi.

Adeniyi lives with her three sons in a South Keys apartment. Her son Desmond turned to social media on Sunday to seek help for the family, saying they’ve been dealing with mould in their unit and it has taken too long to fix.

“I see my mom go through a struggle everyday; with three kids, it’s not easy,” says 16-year-old Desmond Adeniyi.

He setup a GoFundMe page to help the family raise money to move out. After gaining online attention and the story, which originally aired CTV News Ottawa on Tuesday, they have been able to raise over $30,000.

“Yes! I was surprised, a big surprise!” says Nofisat Adeniyi, “We are free from the mess that we’ve been going through.”

The family was so touched, they decided to pay it forward and donated $5,000 to another family in need, “A lady my son told me about,” says Nofisat Adeniyi.

The recipient wants to remain anonymous, but when she found out from Adeniyi, “She was crying, she has three kids; I remember when I was, I can feel what she’s feeling – because I was once in those shoes.”

CTV News Ottawa did reach out to the property management company for an update on the mould. In a statement on Wednesday, a spokesperson for COGIR Realty wrote:

“We respect the privacy of our residents and are unable to disclose any specific information regarding any of our residents. We can, however, let you know that we are working with the residents and are making every effort to resolve this matter as soon as possible,” said Cogir Real Estate

The giving did not stop at just cash donations. “When I saw the segment, the thing that struck me the most was how easily the situation can be resolved,” says mould removal expert Charlie Leduc with Mold Busters in Ottawa.

Leduc is not involved in the case, but appeared in the original story, and after seeing the mould on TV wanted to help.

“This isn’t something that we typically do, but given the circumstance and given the fact that this has gone on way too long, our company is willing to go in and do this work for free,” said Leduc.

The Adeniyi family may now have some options, and are grateful to the community for the support.

“Yes, It’s great news — you can see me smiling,” says Nofisat.

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