Donald Trump could create 5G network in fight against Chinese phone-tapping


The Trump administration is considering nationalizing the next-generation, high-speed 5G wireless network in an effort to prevent Chinese spying on US mobile traffic, according to reports Sunday.

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.

An alternative plan where wireless providers build their own 5G networks that compete with one another - though the document says the downside is it could take longer and cost more.

Currently, US wireless carriers are planning to launch their own 5G networks in 2019 or 2020, which they would not share. This push, seen by industry leaders as a national security policy as much as a tech policy, is an effort to build out America's wireless infrastructure without Chinese infiltration. A White House official, however, said the memo reported by Axios is "dated" and "not representative of the administration's thinking".

Wireless communication infrastructure is usually built by private companies, like Verizon and AT&T.

The technology world is waiting for the arrival of 5G to connect everything from phones and IoT devices, to self-driving vehicles and more. The network would be built by "former or reserve military personnel" and other workers who would be federally trained by a "National Training Program".

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".

The federal government would also, according to the memo, be able to use the banner of national security to create a federal process for installing the wireless equipment, preventing states and cities from having their own rules for where the equipment could go.

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The option of a nationalized 5G network was being discussed by Trump's national security team, an administration official said on Sunday. "Other options under consideration include more private sector control but still greater federal government involvement than now is contemplated by the market".

A debate in the Trump administration on the ways of building and funding such network, as well as the reaction from the industry, may be expected in the coming six to eight months, the news outlet suggested.

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.

Earlier today, FCC chair Ajit Pai opposed the Trump Administration's plan to allow the government to control the nation's 5G network.

A spokesperson for AT&T said that the USA is already working on a 5G network - with AT&T's set to be switched on later this year.

This month AT&T was forced to scrap a plan to offer its customers handsets built by China's Huawei after some members of Congress lobbied against the idea with federal regulators, sources told Reuters.

"Thanks to multi-billion dollar investments made by American companies, the work to launch 5G service in the USA is already well down the road", the said in a statement.