The news website Axios reported Sunday that national security officials may want a government-built next-generation "5G" mobile network because of concerns about China and cybersecurity. Axios said a "senior" official on the National Security Council produced both the memo and PowerPoint slides it had seen and that they were presented to senior officials at various USA agencies.
According to Axios, the documents lays out two options that detail how the administration can go about developing such a network within three years, an unprecedented step in a historically private industry.
However wireless providers have already bought much of the spectrum in preparation for a 5G network and it is not clear whether there is enough left for the U.S. government to use. The best way to do this, the memo argues, would be for the government to build a network itself.
An unnamed senior White House official said that the government wants to build a network so calls can not be listened to by the Chinese.
The proposal would upend the entire U.S. mobile network market, rebalance power between wireless carriers, bust through city and state laws, declare two major Chinese companies to essentially be enemies of the state, and cost up to $200 billion.
Trump recently began making good on his aggressive "America First" trade agenda, with China as a primary target by imposing steep tariffs on imported washing machines and solar panels.
The proposal promptly drew opposition from both the wireless industry and other administration officials.
Earlier this month, AT&T had been expected to announce it would make available Chinese-based phone maker Huawei's flagship Mate 10 Pro smartphone in the US, but the plan was scrapped supposedly because of the Trump administration's hard line on Chinese investment here.
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".
Chinese telecommunications equipment makers Huawei and ZTE Corp have already been shut out of the lucrative carrier network market in the U.S. because of security worries. While Nokia, Samsung, and Ericsson all make network equipment used worldwide, the document sees Huawei and ZTE as becoming globally dominant due to their government support.
Industry standards for 5G are yet to be set, though experts believe it will be around 100-times faster than current 4G LTE technologies. And the chairman of that independent agency, Ajit Pai, said Monday that he vehemently opposed the idea of nationalizing 5G. An unnamed source reportedly told the news outlet that the document is now outdated that that there's a newer version that's neutral regarding whether or not the federal government should construct and own the 5G network.
'We have to have a secure network that doesn't allow bad actors to get in.
On Monday in Beijing, a spokesperson for the foreign ministry of China said that the country had prohibited all types of hacking, but the 5G security issues were not specifically addressed.