Trump Administration Officials Reportedly Proposed a Nationalized 5G Network
The US government’s suspicion of Chinese telecom and smartphone companies appears to grow with each passing day. In early January, US lawmakers pressured AT&T to renege on deals with Huawei to launch the Huawei Mate 10 Pro and collaborate on upcoming 5G networking standards. It isn’t exactly surprising, then, that it’s reportedly entertained the idea of building a centralized 5G network designed to thwart China from conducting “espionage” operations. According to a report in Axios, members of the White House’s National Security Council believe that a nationalized 5G network would aid in protecting against the encroachment of foreign actors.
According to the report, there are two ways the US government has proposed approaching 5G. The first involves building a 5G network and renting out access to telecom operators such as T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint, and AT&T, using the banner of “national security” to install wireless equipment in cities and states around the country. Telecom operators would effectively act as MVNOs in the arrangement, report, and the US would export its work on a secure network to emerging markets to protect “democratic allies”.
The second option would have telecom operators build 5G networks on their own, just as they did with 3G and 4G. Trump officials were initially inclined towards the first option, according to the report, but have recently taken a more neutral stance.
In the hours after the report’s publication this morning, it was denounced by several members of the Trump administration, who told Recode that the proposal was a “dated” idea floated by a White House staffer.
Separately, FCC chairman Ajit Pai vehemently opposed the proposed buildout of a government-owned 5G network.
“I oppose any proposal for the federal government to build and operate a nationwide 5G network,” he said in a statement on Monday. “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.”