The documents said that the Trump administration is considering a federal “takeover” of a portion of the country’s mobile network to “guard against China” and hopes to finalize the details before September.
Today telecommunications companies like AT&T build their own systems using their own equipment and lease airwaves from the government, but now the U.S. is reportedly looking into paying for and building a 5G network and would “rent access to carriers.” The plans were said to have been recently presented to senior officials in the administration, and if agreed upon by September will see a rollout over the next three years.
Trump national security officials are considering an unprecedented federal takeover of a portion of the nation’s mobile network to guard against China, according to sensitive documents obtained by Axios.
The PowerPoint presentation says that the U.S. has to build superfast 5G wireless technology quickly because “China has achieved a dominant position in the manufacture and operation of network infrastructure,” and “China is the dominant malicious actor in the Information Domain.” To illustrate the current state of U.S. wireless networks, the PowerPoint uses a picture of a medieval walled city, compared to a future represented by a photo of lower Manhattan.
The government is trying to accelerate development of a 5G network as a way to defend against China, and hopes to create a “new paradigm” for the wireless industry before the end of President Trump’s current term. Although the documents are said to be focused on “Chinese threats to America’s economic and cyber security,” they also mention that a nationwide 5G network would help foster emerging technologies like self-driving cars and virtual reality. According to one administration official speaking to Bloomberg, the “takeover” terminology is “not part of the administration’s thinking.”
Outside of this news, most of the major U.S. mobile carriers like AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile have already begun their move towards true 5G networks. AT&T most recently said it plans to launch a mobile 5G network in a dozen cities by the end of 2018, while Sprint mentioned its own wide-scale 5G network will launch by 2019, and T-Mobile is aiming for nationwide 5G coverage by 2020. The first iPhone that could support 5G is believed to be coming through a partnership between Apple and Intel.
Update: FCC chairman Ajit Pai released a statement opposing the creation of a government-run 5G network, shared by The Verge.
“I oppose any proposal for the federal government to build and operate a nationwide 5G network. The main lesson to draw from the wireless sector’s development over the past three decades—including American leadership in 4G—is that the market, not government, is best positioned to drive innovation and investment. What government can and should do is to push spectrum into the commercial marketplace and set rules that encourage the private sector to develop and deploy next-generation infrastructure. Any federal effort to construct a nationalized 5G network would be a costly and counterproductive distraction from the policies we need to help the United States win the 5G future.”
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