A leaked PowerPoint deck and memo indicate the Trump Administration may be considering the construction of a government-built and -operated 5G wireless network, according to Axios. The 5G network concept is aimed at addressing what officials see as China's threat to US cyber security and economic security, Reuters reported on Sunday.
The documents reviewed by Axios suggested that the US must have a centralized 5G network spanning the country within the next three years.
The first option says the government can pay for and build the single 5G network, without the consultation of private companies.
Currently, US wireless carriers are planning to launch their own 5G networks in 2019 or 2020, which they would not share.
The telecom industry wants this lightning-speed message to get to the USA government: We should build the nation's first 5G network, not you.
A source told Axios that the debate continues over whether the government would build and own the network, or it would have carriers work together in a consortium, putting aside commercial rivalries for the greater good.
Wireless communication infrastructure is usually built by private companies, like Verizon and AT&T.
U.S. Senator Mark Warner, a Democrat and vice chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said that while he agreed there were "serious concerns relating to the Chinese government's influence into network equipment markets" he thought the proposal for the federal government to build a standalone network would be "expensive and duplicative".
With smartphones being a large portion of consumer electronics that will eventually feature 5G modems, other applications like self-driving vehicles and IoT products are also expected to take advantage of this breakthrough. These officials have met with some of the biggest technology companies to discuss a fast, nationwide rollout of a 5G network.
In 2012, concern about possible Chinese interference in the USA led government authorities to issue a report describing Huawei Technologies Co. The document also alludes to the public good in addition to national security concerns, comparing the development of such as network as akin to the Eisenhower National Highway System. They also reportedly said that a staffer had simply made this suggestion and that the policy of a centralized 5G network is not imminent and probably won't ever be. And the chairman of that independent agency, Ajit Pai, said Monday that he vehemently opposed the idea of nationalizing 5G.
Reuters points out that the idea is now only "being debated at a low level in the administration", and it could be "six to eight months" before it is "considered by the president himself". Instead, the earlier idea was to have the government sponsor the building of a 5G network that would be owned and operated privately.
The Trump administration's 5G plan comes on the heels of the scuttled smartphone distribution deal in the USA between Huawei Technologies and AT&T because of U.S. security concerns.
For example, the company built two data centers in Zimbabwe after the country got a $98m loan from China Export-Import Bank. If successful, the nationwide next-generation 5G mobile network would help protect communications from Chinese spies and other foreign actors.