A proposal by U.S. President Donald Trump's team to nationalize the next-generation 5G mobile network in the name of national security and countering the China threat has hit a brick wall across the industrial and political spectrum.
On Monday, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai said he opposed any proposal for the federal government to build and operate a nationwide 5G network.
"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," Pai said in a statement.
On Sunday, Axios, a news website, reported in a scoop that Trump's national security team wanted a government-built next-generation 5G mobile network out of concerns about China and cybersecurity. The report said there will be a fierce debate inside the Trump administration — and an outcry from the industry, over how such a network is built and paid for.
The White House responded on Monday that while the need for a secure network, as outlined in the U.S. National Security Strategy, is being discussed, there are "absolutely no decisions" made on what that would look like.
"These are the very earliest stages of the discussion period, and there's been absolutely no decision made other than the fact the need for a secure network," White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told a briefing on Monday.
Commenting on the report at a press conference on Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Beijing firmly opposes and severely cracks down on all forms of cyberattacks. She urged the international community to ramp up dialogue and cooperation to address challenges and maintain peace and security of the cyberspace.
CTIA, which represents the U.S. wireless communications industry and the companies throughout the mobile ecosystem, said it agreed that winning the race to 5G is a national priority.
"The government should pursue the free market policies that enabled the U.S. wireless industry to win the race to 4G," said CTIA President and CEO Meredith Attwell Baker in a statement on Monday.
U.S. Representative Greg Walden, a Republican who chairs the Energy and Commerce Committee, also dismissed the idea of a nationalized 5G network, Reuters reported on Monday, quoting him as saying, "We don't need to have the government run everything."
The U.S. government has blocked a string of Chinese acquisitions over national security. It derailed the planned partnership that would have seen AT&T sell Chinese telecom equipment giant Huawei's smartphones in the U.S. market last month. This was followed by some U.S. lawmakers' call for AT&T to cut commercial ties with Huawei and to reject plans by operator China Mobile to enter the U.S. market.
Beijing has urged the U.S. side to level the playing field and create a favorable environment for Chinese enterprises.