Trump administration mulls nationalizing 5G wireless network

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Axios: Trump administration mulling nationalization of 5G network
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30 January, 2018

The US national security team could create a 5G wireless network in an attempt to fight against China spying on phone calls, a senior administration official has said.

A memo and presentation prepared by a top National Security Council official - and obtained by Axios - contrasts a nationalized 5G network with a network built by the private sector.

The Trump administration denies the reports that it may seek to nationalize at least part of the 5G network in the U.S.in an effort to win some secret cyber war with China that may or may not exist. On the other hand, having carriers build their own networks would avoid much of the commercial disruption involved in the first option.

The government aims to decide on a plan by the end of September and build it out over the next few years, said one of the officials in one of the report.

Experts told Axios that it will take a decade to roll out 5G networks altogether. The national network would be a way for the federal government to steer contracts to preferred providers and to nurture a network-equipment market that is free of Chinese influence.

Currently, telecom companies build their own networks.

One of the slides reportedly describes the move as a digital version of China's One Belt, One Road Initiative, which includes the massive China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. "The government should pursue the free market policies that enabled the USA wireless industry to win the race to 4G".

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The Trump administration has taken a harder line on policies initiated by predecessor Barack Obama on issues ranging from Beijing's role in restraining North Korea to Chinese efforts to acquire US strategic industries.

"There is nothing that would slam the breaks more quickly on our hard-won momentum to be the leader in the global race for 5G network deployment more quickly than the federal government stepping in to build those networks", said its president, Jonathan Spalter, in an emailed statement.

Some members of the House intelligence committee remain troubled by security threats posed by Huawei and ZTE. The proposal also claims that China has a major position in the construction of network hardware, which should also be avoided by the US.

And three weeks ago, U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) introduced "The Defending U.S. Government Communications Act", proposed legislation to prohibit the U.S. government from purchasing or leasing telecommunications equipment and/or services from Huawei and another Chinese firm ZTE.

"We doubt these ideas will advance for a variety of reasons, including spectrum constraints, private sector investment and the availability of other security measures", Height said Monday.

Industry standards for 5G are yet to be set, though experts believe it will be around 100-times faster than current 4G LTE technologies. As Axios notes, the wireless industry is already deploying 5G networks to customers. To illustrate the current state of USA wireless networks, the PowerPoint uses a picture of a medieval walled city, compared to a future represented by a photo of lower Manhattan.


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