United States could build own 5G network to stop China spying

Jan 30, 2018, 01:27
United States could build own 5G network to stop China spying

The US government is reportedly considering construction of a federal 5G network, with the Trump administration citing cyber security fears and China's growing power in the network domain as the main reasons.

Details of the plans were unveiled in a memo and PowerPoint presentation created by a senior National Security Council official and reported by Axios. 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.

5G service providers could build their networks that will obviously be competing with one another.

The first (and quickest) way for the plan to be adopted in the US would be to have the government pay for and build a network itself.

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A source familiar with the matter said the second option was not really a good one as only a single centralized network could protect the USA from China and other bad actors. Access to the network would then be rented to carriers like AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile.

U.S. Senator Mark Warner, a Democrat and vice chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said that while he agreed there were "serious concerns relating to the Chinese government's influence into network equipment markets" he thought the proposal for the federal government to build a standalone network would be "expensive and duplicative".

"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. Still, this hasn't been tried before in the United States - it's hard to know how well the feds would handle a 5G rollout. And it would have to contract with the network equipment and telecommunications companies, which are already building and testing their own networks anyway. The primary goal behind 5G network nationalization would be to keep American wireless infrastructure free and secure from any external threats, the biggest being China. The report pushes for greater government intervention, but an Axios source said a recent version took a more neutral stance.

Last March, AT&T agreed to pay $1.6 billion to acquire Straight Path Communications, whose major asset is 735 millimeter-wave (mmWave) licenses in the 39 GHz band and 133 licenses in the 28 GHz band, covering the entire United States, including the top 40 markets.

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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.

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.

Reuters points out that the idea is now only "being debated at a low level in the administration", and it could be "six to eight months" before it is "considered by the president himself". As Axios notes, the wireless industry is already deploying 5G networks to customers. It is not clear if the government would have sufficient spectrum to build a 5G network of its own.

Government control of 5G infrastructure would be unprecedented, since the industry is historically controlled by private operators. AT&T says it will start to roll out its 5G network as early as this year, though virtually no one will be able to use it until 5G-compatible devices land on store shelves.

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