The Trump administration is considering the development of a nationalised 5G network which will keep citizens’ data secure from the Chinese government, but experts warn that such a network would be ‘expensive and duplicative’.
The U.S. is taking a number of steps to prevent the Chinese from taking control over the wireless network infrastructure, such as stopping Chinese acquisition of major firms and mulling about setting up a nationalised 5G network.
According to an administration official who spoke to Reuters, the Trump administration is discussing a move to set up a nationalised 5G network which will be more resilient against hackers and which will not be controlled by Chinese network infrastructure firms like Huawei and ZTE.
However, the move is presently being debated at a low level in the administration and it will take more than six months for the proposal to reach the President himself. At the same time, a number of experts and organisations have protested against such a move citing various reasons, thereby making some believe that it could be a non-starter.
U.S. Senator Mark Warner, who is also the vice chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, told Reuters that while there were “serious concerns relating to the Chinese government’s influence into network equipment markets”, creating a new nationalised 5G network would be “expensive and duplicative.”
His words were echoed by Ajit Pai, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) who said that such a move would be ‘a costly and counterproductive distraction from the policies we need to help the United States win the 5G future’.
According to the FCC, billions of dollars have already been spent by carriers to acquire spectrum and to develop and test 5G networks in the U.S. Such networks will be a hundred times faster compared to 4G and will cut latency to ‘less than one thousandth of a second from one hundredth of a second in 4G’.
As of now, both Huawei and ZTE are banned from participating in the development or testing of 5G networks in the U.S. The ban was issued in 2012 following an investigation into a possibility of China carrying out large-scale surveillance using equipment sold by the two firms in the U.S.
However, CTIA, which is a consortium of leading network operators in the United States, is against the setting up of a nationalised 5G network. The consortium said in a statement that the ‘government should pursue the free market policies that enabled the U.S. wireless industry to win the race to 4G.’
It remains to be seen if the Trump administration will be able to force through such a move, considering the high costs and loss of time it will entail. But what is clear is that the administration is well aware of the Chinese threat to communications and that it knows that it must take urgent steps to minimise the threat in the future.