Union Wireless is one of the many smaller wireless operators that operates a network built with Huawei equipment from China. And company officials told the FCC this week that the only way to change that situation is to replace your existing network with a completely new one.
"At this time, it is not possible to insert the equipment provided by a non-Huawei equipment supplier into an operational network that uses Huawei equipment. A completely new network must be built," Union executives told officials of the FCC, according to a new presentation of the company. "Once the construction is completed, the old network must be cut to the newly built network, after which the old network can be dismantled."
And that won't be cheap, Union said.
The company estimated that it will cost up to $ 110 million to replace and install a new network. The company said it has invested more than $ 34 million in Huawei equipment for a network that covers 418 cell towers in 90,000 square miles at locations throughout Wyoming and elsewhere.
This is a new FCC proposal to pay operators like Union to replace their Huawei equipment. The FCC had previously proposed to prevent operators such as Union from using government subsidies to buy additional equipment from Chinese operators such as Huawei, but last month it extended that suggestion to also include financing for the complete eradication of Huawei equipment from US networks. (To be clear, the FCC program does not cover all U.S. telecom operators, but only those who have received money from its Universal Service Fund (USF), which is designed to expand the services of Internet in rural areas).
The FCC states that the Chinese government can use equipment from Chinese suppliers such as Huawei and ZTE for international espionage. But those vendors have opposed that argument aloud. And Huawei, meanwhile, has presented hundreds of pages of evidence to support its claims. Meanwhile, the FCC devoted approximately four pages to defending its own position, although it cited reports from several other sources.
The situation is critical for operators like Union who are caught in the midst of an international political storm, and have proven not only economic issues but also much more personal issues of patriotism and loyalty.
"The Union Telephone Company was founded more than 100 years ago by the father of a World War II veteran who survived the landing of the Allies in Omaha Beach, and today the company gives priority to providing opportunities for veterans, employing people who have served in the United States military at a rate twice as high as the percentage of veterans in the general civilian population, "the company told the FCC. "If it is the decision of the US government. Replacing the equipment of Huawei / ZTE or other companies that represents a threat to the security of our nation, then Union Wireless will undertake to face the challenge."
A difficult proposition
But in addition to detailing the financial costs associated with the removal of Huawei equipment, Union officials also exposed the logistical and pragmatic problems associated with a total and total ban on the purchase of Chinese equipment by US telecommunications companies. . UU.
For example, what about the Chinese-made generators?
"Excessive language … could restrict operators from installing backup generators with the support of the USF," Union officials said. "If this is the case, carriers may choose not to install the backup generator. This would frustrate the essential purpose of the federal universal service fund: to provide support for investments in high-cost areas that private companies could not choose from. another way to do, preserve and advance universal service in rural and high-cost areas. "
Union executives also pointed out that a general ban could affect everything from the equipment used to build a road to the site of a cell, to the concrete used at the base of a cell tower.
Finally, Union officials wondered how they could keep Chinese components out of their networks completely.
"Most of the time, when a product is manufactured by a covered company, a carrier can discern that fact. On the other hand, when a covered company manufactures one or more components that combine with those manufactured elsewhere and are part of a much larger finish "like a switch, it is very difficult and sometimes impossible for a buyer to discern whether the entire finished product is 100% free of components manufactured by covered companies," Union executives said. "It is also very difficult for Small operators to obtain representations, guarantees and compensation from equipment suppliers on the content of their products. Consequently, Union Wireless suggested that the Commission could try to make the equipment providers clarify that their products do not contain components of a covered company. "
On that last question, the US wireless industry. UU. You are already looking for solutions. For example, as Light Reading initially reported, the US telecommunications association ATIS recently announced that it is now working to address "the 5G supply chain standards and the development of secured 5G commercial networks."
– Mike Dano, editorial director, 5G and mobile strategies, light reading | @mikeddano