United States may build 5G network to counter China spy threat

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A super-fast 5G wireless network could be the solution to preventing China from spying on United States phone calls according to a senior official from Donald Trump's administration. But a report published over the weekend by Axios indicates that the Trump administration is preparing a proposal that would nationalize the 5G network.

A centralized, secure national 5G network could be built within three years and represent "the 21st century equivalent of the Eisenhower National Highway System", according to the memo acquired by Axios.

Meanwhile, the alternative plan calls for wireless providers in the U.S.to build their own 5G networks that would compete with one another. This push, seen by industry leaders as a national security policy as much as a tech policy, is an effort to build out America's wireless infrastructure without Chinese infiltration.

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.

Shares of the biggest US wireless carriers fell at the start of trade on Monday, with Verizon Communications Inc and AT&T Inc down 1.4 percent.

The documents reportedly go on to say that a model for government-controlled 5G infrastructure could be exported to other countries that are USA allies to guard against Chinese interference.

The reasoning behind building such a network as part of a sort of cyber war is to construct a secure network dedicated to Internet traffic for new, more sensitive technologies, such as self-driving vehicles and virtual reality.

According to "sensitive" documents obtained by Axios, the United States is looking at the possibility of building a national 5G network amid growing concerns about China.

China early this month warned that American protectionism was on the rise after congressional documents showed that Chinese tech giant Huawei's designs on the U.S. market were causing national security concerns in Washington.

In December past year, when President Trump unveiled his National Security Strategy, he said: "We improve America's digital infrastructure by deploying a secure 5G Internet capability nationwide". One of the slides reportedly describes the move as a digital version of China's One Belt, One Road Initiative, which includes the massive China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

Earlier this month, AT&T dropped a deal that would see the carrier offer its customers handsets built by China's Huawei after some members of Congress lobbied against the idea with federal regulators.

A Huawei spokesman said the company was looking into the reported 5G plan and had no further comment. "They're smart, they're aggressive, and they're not to be underestimated", he said.

The officials are now split between either having the government build the network itself or let telecoms build it as part of a consortium.

A spokesperson for AT&T said that the USA is already working on a 5G network - with AT&T's set to be switched on later this year. Unlike many online publications, we don't have a paywall or run banner advertising, because we want to keep our journalism open, without influence or the need to chase traffic.