Trump administration mulls nationalizing 5G network, citing Chinese threat

A cell tower in Oakland Ca
A cell tower in Oakland
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30 January, 2018

While the administration is not considering nationalizing the nation's wireless infrastructure, officials are moving ahead with discussions to build a 5G network outside of the traditional wireless carriers, according to people familiar with the matter.

The National Security Council (NSC) document also makes a debatable link between the necessity for a 5G network and the state of artificial intelligence in the U.S. and China. The documents call for the creation of the nationwide network within three years, despite the ongoing development of a privately-held network now under construction by companies such as like Samsung, Intel, Nokia, and Huawei. To combat that threat, the USA needs to build a "single block" network owned by the federal government, which would then be leased back to retail providers like Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile.

The US government could build its own super-fast 5G network in a bid to counter security threats from China and other countries.

President Donald Trump's national security team is mulling a plan to nationalize the newest generation of high-speed wireless internet networks, sparking sharp criticism Monday from across industry and the political spectrum. Instead, it would build and maintain the network and rent access to the likes of AT&T and Verizon.

"We want to build a network so the Chinese can't listen to your calls", the senior official told Reuters.

The 5G nationalization proposal calls for the network to be constructed within three years using spectrum that would be dedicated to the network, with capacity leased to wireless carriers, Axios said.

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Each of the four nationwide cell phone carriers - Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint - are developing and testing 5G network technology. The documents also consider China's dominance of Artificial Intelligence, and use that as part of the rationale for "nationalising" 5G networks. The private option might take longer and cost more, however.

For example, the company built two data centers in Zimbabwe after the country got a $98m loan from China Export-Import Bank.

This month, 5G cleared a significant hurdle when 3GPP, an global wireless consortium, approved a technology standard for next-generation networks.

Apart from FCC chairman Pai, three of remaining four FCC commissioners also said on Monday that they opposed nationalizing the 5G network, while the fourth expressed skepticism. And the major network equipment companies, including Nokia, Ericsson and Huawei, are building the backbone and equipment to support 5G.

Earlier this month, AT&T had been expected to announce it would make available Chinese-based phone maker Huawei's flagship Mate 10 Pro smartphone on its network in the USA, but the plan was scrapped, reportedly because of US pressure on AT&T to cut ties. The unprecedented move is still six to eight months from a formal proposal, Axios reported, and is expected to be fiercely debated within the administration and by the telecom industry.

A leading trade group, with members including AT&T and Verizon, pushed back on the plans saying it sees a competitive marketplace as the best option for ensuring United States leadership in 5G technology. AT&T has said that it expects to launch a mobile 5G service in 12 US locations later this year.


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