White House officials are said to be considering having the US government build a 5G network within three years to make it harder for China to intercept US communications. Reports suggest the idea is still in preliminary discussion so wouldn’t be approved any time soon.
The claims come from Axios.com, which says it has a leaked memo and PowerPoint presentation produced by “a senior National Security Council official.” (That’s no guarantee that the ideas are being taken seriously of course.)
Both documents address the point that 5G will require new networks to be built and discuss several options including:
- leaving it to existing cellphone carriers to build competing networks;
- having the US government build a network and lease access (though this would only use some frequencies, with others left for the market); or
- encouraging/forcing the carriers to work together on a single network.
According to the documents, the first option simply isn’t viable as it wouldn’t offer enough central control to make it possible to protect networks against attacks from other countries.
The second option is likened by the documents to government building a new road network. However, it certainly wouldn’t match the political positioning of the existing White House administration to say the least. Meanwhile the Federal Communications Commission has already poured scorn on the idea.
That might leave the third option as the most viable if officials do decide the security issue does justify such intervention in the market. The immediate problem – leaving aside the politics of if it should happen – is the timescale. Axios says there’ll be a debate of six to eight months before officials make any decision, but several carriers are already working on networks and plan to launch services long before the three year timetable discussed in the documents.