Plan for 5G network causes pushback from telecom companies

Mariah Partin, Staff Writer


A proposal for a national 5G network is currently circulating the White House. This is first reported by Axios, who found a memo stating that America needs a centralized nationwide 5G network within three years. According to the New York Times, there is pushback from federal regulators and major telecommunications companies. Republican Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Ajit Pai said that the Federal government taking control of developing 5G networks could hurt the private sector and the economy. Pai stated that the market, not the government, is best positioned to drive innovation and investment. If the 5G network is introduced by carriers, it will provide competition for the innovation of better and faster technology. He furthered this opposition by saying that a nationalized 5G wireless network would be a costly and a counterproductive distraction to the policies that would help the US create a 5G future.

All four FCC commissioners also came out in disapproval of the plan. Pai has suggested that the U.S. government make wireless airwaves, known as spectrum, more available for commercial carriers such as AT&T and Verizon to deploy the networks. USTelecom, the trade group that represents telecommunications and cable broadband providers, said a government-run plan would set back the industry. The New York Times reported that discussions on the government’s involvement in 5G wireless networks are likely to continue for months before reaching the president for consideration of any type of plan.

The Trump administration is concerned by China’s development of mobile technology and 5G networks and the economic and security threats that this may pose. CNN reports that a National Security Council official presented to the Trump administration information that suggested the U.S. should centralize its 5G network as a safeguard against Chinese cybersecurity. The 5G, or fifth-generation wireless technology, will be more secure and is supposed to make browsing and streaming over mobile devices faster. AT&T claims to be the first wireless company that will launch a mobile 5G service later this year, but in only 12 locations in the United States. Verizon has also announced plans to bring 5G coverage.

Gen. Robert S. Spalding II, the Senior Director for Strategic Planning on the National Security Council, and Peter Navarro, the Director of the White House National Trade Council, are both pushing the 5G wireless network under federal control for the sake of cyber-security. Gary D. Cohn, the President’s Chief Trader Adviser favors the free market approach. Gen. H. R. McMaster also opposes moves against China as the administration needs China’s support with North Korea.

Although Axios reportedly found a memo and PowerPoint presentation on the 5G network proposal, the Trump administration has made no decisions and the topic is up for discussion, with the two options being that either the American government build a network or have the wireless providers build their own 5G networks. Axios provided the memo which states that a strong 5G network is needed for the future of other technologies such as self-driving cars and virtual reality. Recently, a White House official has stated that the memo reported by Axios is “dated” and was not a major policy announcement even at the time. Recode reports that the Trump administration has no plans to build its own ultra-fast 5G wireless network so it will be a while before there is any type of confirmation on the future of this technology.

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