In a stunning – if accurate – report published Sunday night, Axios claims that White House national security officials are considering an unprecedented federal takeover of a portion of the nation’s mobile spectrum/network to protect against Chinese attacks, in what may well be a pre-emptive shot, hinting at upcoming trade wars between the two superpowers.
Axios got its hands on PowerPoint deck and a memo, both of which were purportedly produced by a senior National Security Council official, which were presented to other senior officials at other agencies during a recent meeting. The documents argue that America needs a centralized nationwide 5G network within three years. There’ll be a fierce debate inside the Trump administration, and an outcry from the industry over the next 6-8 months over how such a network is going to be built and paid for.
For those unfamiliar with 5G, Quora has a useful discussion on “How is 5G different from 4G and when will it be launched?”
The document’s author presents two options:
- The U.S. government pays for and builds the single network — which would be an unprecedented nationalization of a historically private infrastructure.
- An alternative plan where wireless providers build their own 5G networks that compete with one another — though the document says the downside is it could take longer and cost more. It argues that one of the “pros” of that plan is that it would cause “less commercial disruption” to the wireless industry than the government building a network.
Another expert who discussed the plan with Axios said the second option isn’t really feasible because a single, centralized network is what is needed to protect against cyberattacks from the Chinese or other foreign powers.
The source said the internal White House debate will be over whether the U.S. government owns and builds the network or whether the carriers bind together in a consortium to build the network, an idea that would require them to put aside their business models to serve the country’s greater good.
Option 1 would lead to federal control of a part of the economy that today is largely controlled by private wireless providers;