WASHINGTON – The US telecommunications regulator plans to vote in November to designate China’s Huawei and ZTE as national security risks, barring their US rural carrier customers from tapping an $8.5 billion (R124 billion) government fund to purchase equipment or services.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) also plans to propose requiring those carriers to remove and replace equipment from such designated companies, FCC officials said on Monday.
At a meeting set for November 19, the FCC said it planned to vote to ask carriers how much it would cost to remove and replace Huawei Technologies and ZTE from existing networks and to establish a reimbursement programme to offset the costs of removing the equipment.
“When it comes to 5G and America’s security, we can’t afford to take a risk and hope for the best,” FCC chairperson Ajit Pai said in a statement. “As the United States upgrades its networks to the next generation of wireless technologies – 5G – we cannot ignore the risk that the Chinese government will seek to exploit network vulnerabilities in order to engage in espionage, insert malware and viruses, and otherwise compromise our critical communications networks.”
This is the latest in a series of actions by the US government aimed at barring US companies from purchasing Huawei and ZTE equipment. Huawei and ZTE would have 30 days to contest the FCC’s national security risk designation and a final order compelling removal of equipment is not expected until next year at the earliest.