Major wireless carriers in the United States have had each other to push themselves to be the first to deploy a 5G wireless network, and now they have someone else encouraging them to get to the finish line—President Trump.
Last week, President Trump sent out a tweet stating he wants 5G, and even 6G, technology in the United States as soon as possible, according to multiple news outlets.
“I want 5G, and even 6G, technology in the United States as soon as possible,” President Trump said on his Twitter account. “It is far more powerful, faster, and smarter than the current standard. American companies must step up their efforts, or get left behind. There is no reason that we should be lagging behind on something that is so obviously the future. I want the United States to win through competition, not by blocking out currently more advanced technologies. We must always be the leader in everything we do, especially when it comes to the very exciting world of technology.”
President Trump shared his desire for 5G to be deployed not long after CBS’ published its interview with Chinese telecom firm Huawei CEO Ren Zhengfei, according to NBC News. The executive stated Huawei was currently in the process of deploying 5G technology and would introduce 6G technology, “soon.”
Huawei’s work has raised concerns the United States is falling behind in the race to create advanced wireless technology. The Chinese firm has moved ahead of the U.S. both abroad and domestically—Huawei currently powers approximately 25 percent of the Rural Wireless Association’s carrier member networks, according to a Federal Communications Commission filing in December. Major U. S. telecommunications have made investments in 5G technology of their own, but companies in China still appear to be ahead. The gap has caused concern that the U.S. could also fall behind in creating technology off of these next-generation networks.
“The implication is that new industries of the future, the new ways of making a living, will be in China and not here,” author and Harvard Law School professor Susan Crawford told NBC News. “They’ll have this huge sandbox to play with and a lot of control over the market.”
Meanwhile, accounting company Deloitte’s 2018 report revealed China is ahead of the U.S. in wireless infrastructure development and the country is building new cell towers at an accelerated pace.
“Infrastructure spend and tower density distinguish China’s leap forward and highlight the degree to which China outpaces the United States during these early stages of 5G deployment,” Deloitte wrote in the report. “China is building network site density at an unprecedented rate.”
Another the reason the U.S. is falling behind is zoning and permitting often hold up the process of tower development as NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) protests create delays.
If the U.S. is to move to the forefront of 5G deployment, it will do so without any Huawei technology. Last month, the Trump administration charged the company with money laundering, bank fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy and conspiracy to obstruct justice. President Trump also signed a law that blocked federal government agencies from using Huawei’s products. The decision came after six U.S. intelligence agencies advised Americans not to buy the company’s smartphones, according to NBC News. The FCC is also expected to seek an outright ban on Huawei’s tech in the U.S. due to national security concerns.
A ban on Huawei’s tech could impact smaller U.S. communities however. Major telecom companies that serve urban communities are on board with the ban because they develop their own equipment. However, smaller mobile carriers rely on Huawei’s less expensive tech in order to stay competitive and be able to afford to serve their rural customers, NBC News reports.
“There’s a lot of peeling of the onion here, but the FCC considering banning Huawei equipment will negatively impact the small carriers that don’t have the financial reach that the major carriers have,” Georgetown Law Institute for Technology Law & Policy distinguished fellow Gigi Sohn told NBC News. “The sad part of this whole conversation is we’re talking about these fancy technologies that will benefit the haves, while the have-nots will continue to be left behind.”