Nationalized 5G & Other Ways to Build a Wall Between the U.S. & China

By Paula Bernier January 29, 2018

Reports are surfacing that the Trump administration has been considering a federal takeover of 5G networks. However, Federal Communications Chairman Ajit Pai quickly responded with a statement noting his opposition to such an idea.

In any case, there’s clearly a push by the federal government to isolate the country’s networks and communications from Chinese influence.

Low-level discussions within the administration reportedly included conversations about two possible options for nationalizing 5G networks. The first would have the government build and fund a 5G network and rent capacity on it to communications services providers. The other would allow CSPs to continue to build their own 5G networks, but apparently with more government involvement.

Here’s what Pai had to say about a potential national takeover of 5G networks: “I oppose any proposal for the federal government to build and operate a nationwide 5G network. The main lesson to draw from the wireless sector’s development over the past three decades—including American leadership in 4G—is that the market, not government, is best positioned to drive innovation and investment. What government can and should do is to push spectrum into the commercial marketplace and set rules that encourage the private sector to develop and deploy next-generation infrastructure. Any federal effort to construct a nationalized 5G network would be a costly and counterproductive distraction from the policies we need to help the United States win the 5G future.”

The idea of nationalizing 5G, reports indicate, apparently have to do with protecting the U.S. from China. (When framed in that way, this sounds justifiable. However, one could argue that the idea of government taking over control of our communications networks is also quite worrisome.)

This reported 5G nationalization conversation is just part of a larger effort in industry and government to guard our communications and networks from the Chinese. Here are a few of the others:

• AT&T recently scrapped a partnership it had been planning with Chinese communications equipment giant Huawei,

• U.S. lawmakers reportedly told all U.S. companies to cut their ties with Huawei, and

• U.S. Rep. Michael Conaway (R-TX) has introduced a bill proposing a ban on the U.S. government using equipment or phones made by Huawei or ZTE, the other major Chinese networking giant.

This government push against the use of China networking suppliers comes about five years after Sprint agreed not to use Huawei equipment as part of its agreement U.S. officials to gain clearance on its Clearwire deal. However, Sprint does use Huawei gear. Huawei has also been working its way into rural telco networks in the U.S. And the company in recent years has rapidly gained marketshare and leadership status in many networking product categories.




Edited by Mandi Nowitz

Executive Editor, TMC

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