Trump administration mulls a nationalized 5G network

AT&T to Launch Mobile 5G in 2018 - AT&T Newsroom -

According to the Axios report, network security officials in the Trump administration are looking at an unprecedented federal takeover of a part of the country's mobile network to guard against China. A leaked National Security Council memo published by Axios news website on Sunday said China is the dominant manufacturer of network infrastructure and notes the importance of building the network with "equipment from a trusted supply chain". Telecom regulators and industry groups voiced opposition Monday, Jan. 29, 2018, to a government-built wireless network that the Trump administration is reportedly considering.

Wireless carriers in the US have spent billions of USA dollars buying up spectrum for the launch of their 5G networks. While this could take longer and cost more, it would cause "less commercial disruption" to the wireless industry than the government building a network. On Monday, Recode reported that administration officials said the Axios memo was outdated.

"We want to build a network so the Chinese can't listen to your calls", said the senior official. The documents say America needs a centralized nationwide 5G network within three years and puts out two options on how to pay for it.

The federal government stepping in would "slam the brakes" on momentum to deploy 5G, argued Jonathan Spalter, chief of USTelecom trade association.

Meredith Attwell Baker, president of the wireless industry group CTIA, added that while 5G is important, "the government should pursue the free market policies that enabled the USA wireless industry to win the race to 4G".

AT&T told Axios in response to the report that "thanks to multi-billion dollar investments made by American companies, the work to launch 5G service in the United States is already well down the road", seemingly suggesting that the government's efforts would be implemented more slowly than the private sectors' ongoing efforts.

Upgrading to new 5G networks capable of handling massive amounts of digital data wirelessly and instantly is seen as essential for the success of innovations from virtual reality and self-driving cabs to "smart" cities.

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The senior administration official told USA TODAY that the reported memo is an old one, but its stated strategy is correct.

A government wireless network would be unprecedented in the USA, and would stand at odds with an administration that has been adamant about deregulation and privatization.

This month, 5G cleared a significant hurdle when 3GPP, an worldwide wireless consortium, approved a technology standard for next-generation networks. "They're smart, they're aggressive, and they're not to be underestimated", he said.

Either way, the scheme would disrupt existing business models to ensure the country ends up with a single 5G network under government control.

Should the plan move ahead - something that is by no means guaranteed, with more talks expected over the next six to eight months before it is considered by the President - it could find favor among allies. "I think all of us need to be concerned about the influences of the Chinese government on all those businesses".

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 USA leadership in 5G technology.


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