Report: White House Infrastructure Plan Considers Nationalizing 5G Network

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A recent report indicated that national security officials are contemplating a federal takeover of a portion of the U.S. 5G mobile network in an effort to guard the country against China and other threats.

According to Axios, a senior National Security Adviser official presented a PowerPoint deck and a memo to senior officials at other agencies within the Trump administration.

According to the website, the documents in question assert that the U.S. is in need of “centralized nationwide 5G network within three years.”

An intense debate within the presidential administration, as well as the cellular industry, is expected to take place over the next several months, regarding how to pay for such as plan, according to Axios.

The report indicated that there are essentially two plans displayed in the documents for funding the initiative.

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The first option would be for the federal government to fund and build a single network, which Axios points out would be an “unprecedented nationalization” of a traditionally privatized industry.

Another plan calls for wireless providers to compete by building their own 5G mobile networks.

However, Axios noted that the documents obtained hypothesize that a private plan may take longer and cost more to build.

Although this plan would potentially cause “less commercial disruption” than if the U.S. government were to take on the project.

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At the time of this report, President Donald Trump has not made a decision regarding which direction his administration will take.

However, Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai declared his opposition to the idea in a statement Monday, writing that the initiative would serve as a “costly and counterproductive distraction.”

A source familiar with the documents stated that the private option won’t work, asserting that a centralized network is needed to defend the U.S. against China and other potential threats.

The source told the website that the real debate will actually be over whether the federal government should “own and build” the network, or if wireless carriers were to join together (discarding their businesses) in order to build a network for the country.

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In the event that the U.S. government were to lead the project, that would mean federal control of a largely privatized industry.

Axios reported that the Trump administration compared the proposition to “the 21st century equivalent of the Eisenhower National Highway System.”

However, the website did note that a nationalized 5G network would only take up a portion of the airwaves, leaving room for private businesses to build.

According to Axios, the PowerPoint also states that the U.S. needs to develop a 5G wireless network 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.”

Moreover, the report indicated that the memo obtained says that best way to accomplish this goal would be for the government to build the network and then rent access to carriers such as AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile.

Additionally, the memo is said to make the case for a strong 5G network not only for security purposes but to open a pathway for new technologies like virtual reality and self-driving vehicles.

The memo states that China is leading the artificial intelligence “algorithm battles,” and “not building the network puts us at a permanent disadvantage to China in the information domain,” as reported by Axios.

However, major wireless carriers including AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile have already begun working on 5G networks, while Korea and Japan are said to be leading the way for testing.

It is reportedly unclear if the national approach would establish the network sooner, or at the 3-year goal listed in the memo.

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