USA considering to build 5G network; to keep China out

On Sunday, a senior official in President Trump's administration confirmed that the USA government is exploring ways to counter various perceived security threats - and the development of a 5G network, containing parts manufacturered in China, is believed to be among them. "China has achieved a dominant position in the manufacture and operation of network infrastructure", reads one slide, "China is the dominant malicious actor in the Information Domain".

The Republican-appointed head of the Federal Communications Commission, AT&T, and an influential wireless trade group said the government should keep out of what's already a fast and furious effort to build the next generation of Internet, which promises Internet connections ten to 100 times faster than current networks. 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". The document also alludes to the public good in addition to national security concerns, comparing the development of such as network as akin to the Eisenhower National Highway System. Under the plans now being considered, the government would not be creating an agency to build a network or to run it.

The quickest way for 5G technology to be adopted in the US would be for the government to build the network itself, the memo argues. There is a worldwide race to lead in 5G and other nations are poised to win.

US wireless providers including Verizon and AT&T already have 5G trials operating, with initial deployment beginning this year and continuing in the months ahead.

Axios claimed it has seen documents that revealed security officials stating that the USA needs a centralized nationwide 5G network "to protect America against China and other bad actors". It would then rent access to carriers like AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile.

Building a centralised and nationwide 5G network would involve numerous discussions regarding impact on market mechanism and government expenditure, according to Kelly Hsieh, a research director at consultancy TrendForce.

Now many companies are already working on a 5G network with AT&T, Charter, and Verizon all launching 5G networks with others promising to have national coverage by 2020.

'We want to build a secure 5G network and we have to work with industry to figure out the best way to do it, ' the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. It seems that the Trump administration can't get its story straight, as some officials say the memo and slides are outdated, while another confirmed that they are looking at nationalizing some of the 5G network. Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai posted a note on his Twitter account today, stating that the private marketplace, not the U.S. government, should be the leader in building 5G networks.

Yesterday, Axios reported that the Trump administration was considering the option of a government-controlled 5G network.

Would you like a government funded and/or managed system?

  • Jacqueline Ellis