U.S. Senators call for new 5G policy coordinator in Trump administration

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reports that a bipartisan coalition of eight senators is pressing the Trump administration to create a new White House position to coordinate policy on 5G wireless technology.  Citing a lack of “coherent national strategy,” the Republican and Democratic leadership of four Senate committees called for the designation of a “senior individual focused solely on coordinating and leading the nation’s effort to develop and deploy future telecommunications technologies.” The eight senators said the role was vital to preventing the U.S. from falling behind on deploying the technology—seen as an economic and national security threat—while signaling to allies the seriousness of the administration’s commitment to the issue.

“While we appreciate the progress being made within and across departments and agencies, we are concerned that their respective approaches are not informed by a coherent national strategy,” the senators wrote in the letter, a copy of which was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal (see below for text of the entire letter). “In our view, the current national level approach to 5G comprises of a dispersed coalition of common concern, rather than a coordinated, inter-agency activity.”

The senators warned that without a point person focusing on 5G issues, federal agencies within the Trump administration would continue to work disjointedly and fail to identify “national authority and policy deficiencies that do not neatly fall into a single department or agency.”

“This fractured approach,” the letter added, “will not be sufficient to rise to the challenge the country faces.”

The letter was signed by Richard Burr (R., N.C.)  and Mark Warner (D., Va.), the leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee; Ron Johnson (R., Wis.) and Gary Peters (D., Mich.), who lead the Senate Homeland Security Committee; James Risch (R., Idaho) and Robert Menendez, (D., N.J.), of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; and James Inhofe (R., Okla.) and Jack Reed (D., R.I.), of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Image result for image of 5G coordinator

The Trump administration recently briefed the Senate committees on U.S. efforts to deploy 5G, according to the letter. A person familiar with the matter said the briefing took place Sept. 18, 2019.

The WSJ couldn’t immediately be determined whether the White House would consider the request from the coalition of senators. The Trump administration is currently overseeing an effort to reduce staff at the National Security Council, and has eliminated roles on the council in the past—such as cybersecurity coordinator—despite bipartisan opposition to the move.

For more information, write to Dustin Volz at dustin.volz@wsj.com and Drew FitzGerald at andrew.fitzgerald@wsj.com

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U.S. Senator Jack Reed, the Ranking Member of the Armed Services Committee and a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, says it is disconcerting that the Trump Administration lacks a coherent 5G strategy.

Senator Reed, along with a bipartisan group of Senate leaders sent a letter to President Trump’s national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, urging him to name a senior coordinator for the effort to deploy 5G, and taking the Trump Administration to task for its “fractured approach” that “will not be sufficient to rise to the challenge the country faces.”

The letter, which was also signed by the Chairman and Ranking Members from Senate Armed Services; Foreign Relations; Homeland Security; and Intelligence Committees, stated: “Without a national strategy, facilitated by a common understanding of the geopolitical and technical impact of 5G and future telecommunications advancements, we expect each agency will continue to operate within its own mandate, rather than identifying national authority and policy deficiencies that do not neatly fall into a single department or agency.”

The bipartisan letter continues: “We would further urge you to designate a dedicated, senior individual focused solely on coordinating and leading the nation’s effort to develop and deploy future telecommunications technologies.”

The letter notes that China is stepping up efforts related to 5G technology and “China’s leadership, combined with the United States’ increased reliance on high-speed, reliable telecommunications services to facilitate both commerce and defense, poses a strategic risk for the country.”  However, to this point, the Trump Administration has not taken sufficient steps to address potential Chinese threats.

The Senators say that maintaining White House focus on 5G is especially important in light of last week’s decision to eliminate the emerging technologies directorate at the National Security Council.

In addition to Senator Reed, the letter was also signed by U.S. Senators Mark Warner (D-VA), Richard Burr (R-NC), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Gary Peters (D-MI), Jim Risch (R-ID), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), and Jim Inhofe (R-OK).

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Text of the letter is below:

November 18, 2019

Mr. Robert O’ Brien
Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington DC, 20006

Dear Mr. O’Brien,

Several leaders within the Executive Branch recently briefed the bipartisan leadership of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and the Senate Armed Services

Committee on the United States’ efforts to develop and deploy fifth generation (5G) telecommunications technologies.

As you may be aware, the United States and its allies are facing an unprecedented security challenge with the current marketplace of 5G technologies. While the United States has led in the development and deployment of previous telecommunications evolutions, 5G represents the first evolutionary step for which an authoritarian nation leads the marketplace for telecommunications solutions. China’s leadership, combined with the United States’ increased

reliance on high-speed, reliable telecommunications services to facilitate both commerce and defense, poses a strategic risk for the country. We cannot rely exclusively on defensive measures to solve or mitigate the issue, but rather we must shape the future of advanced telecommunications technology by supporting domestic innovation through meaningful investments, leveraging existing areas of U.S. strength, and bringing together like-minded allies

and private sector expertise through a sustained effort over the course of decades, not months. A challenge of this magnitude requires a more ambitious response than traditional agency processes can support.

While we appreciate the progress being made within and across departments and agencies, we are concerned that their respective approaches are not informed by a coherent national strategy. In our view, the current national level approach to 5G is comprised of a dispersed coalition of common concern, rather than a coordinated, inter-agency activity. Without a national strategy, facilitated by a common understanding of the geopolitical and technical impact of 5G and future telecommunications advancements, we expect each agency will continue to operate within its own mandate, rather than identifying national authority and policy deficiencies that do not neatly fall into a single department or agency. This fractured approach will not be sufficient to rise to the challenge the country faces.

We hope that you, as the new National Security Adviser, will make this issue a top priority. We would further urge you to designate a dedicated, senior individual focused solely on coordinating and leading the nation’s effort to develop and deploy future telecommunications technologies. We believe that having a senior leader would position the United States to lead on telecommunications advancements, ensure the United States is appropriately postured against this strategic threat, and demonstrate to our allies the seriousness with which the nation considers the issue.

We look forward to working with you as we consider additional authorities and resources necessary to address an issue of this importance. We hope that you and your designated lead on 5G issues will continue to engage in a serious and frank dialogue with Congress about what is required to address this challenge.

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References:

https://www.reed.senate.gov/news/releases/reed-leads-bipartisan-call-for-trump-admin-to-name-5g-coordinator

https://www.warner.senate.gov/public/_cache/files/3/6/36f90524-a335-49f9-abb9-39f91ab8db29/A3317D281C5DB3F82DBD8E0EF8650037.o-brien-kudlow-ssci-18nov19.pdf

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Addendum from IPlytics, November 2019:  

Table 1: Top patent owner of 5G declarations as to the number of patent families as to office of application and grant status– Qualcomm (7), Intel (8), InterDigital (12) are only U.S. companies listed.

Company name Declared 5G families Filed at USPTO, EPO or PCT Granted in one office
Huawei Technologies (CN) 3,325 2,379 1,337
Samsung Electronics (KR) 2,846 2,542 1,746
LG Electronics (KR) 2,463 2,296 1,548
Nokia (including Alcatel-Lucent) (FI) 2,308 2,098 1,683
ZTE Corporation (CN) 2,204 1,654 596
Ericsson (SE) 1,423 1,295 765
QUALCOMM (US) 1,330 1,121 866
Intel Corporation (US) 934 885 171
Sharp Corporation (JP) 808 677 444
NTT Docomo (JP) 754 646 351
CATT (CN) 588 360 72
InterDigital Technology (US) 428 346 226
Guangdong Oppo M Telecommunications (CN) 378 363 36
Vivo Mobile (CN) 193 168 0
ASUSTeK Computer (TW) 117 103 35
NEC Corporation (JP) 114 102 84
Apple (US) 79 73 52
KT Corporation (KR) 75 53 15
ETRI (KR) 71 50 20
Fujitsu (JP) 68 18 66
Mororola Mobility (US) 56 54 50
Lenovo Group Limited (CN) 51 48 19
HTC Corporation (TW) 46 44 40
MediaTek (TW) 42 38 30
WILUS Group (KR)  41 20 2
Panasonic (JP)  33 30 9
FG Innovation (CN)  33 33 4
Sony Corporation (JP) 22 17 23
ITRI (TW) 14 13 12
SK Telecom (KR) 12 8 0
Spreadtrum Communications (CN) 11 8 6

 

 

3 thoughts on “U.S. Senators call for new 5G policy coordinator in Trump administration

  1. IMHO, such a U.S. 5G Policy Coordinator was needed a long time ago. That’s because each 5G network provider has their own 5G radio spec and plans for their own 5G network management, security, virtual RAN/mobile packet core, network slicing, etc. They also use different frequencies requiring different analog front ends in 5G endpoints. That means that a 5G endpoint device for a given provider’s 5G network won’t work on any other 5G network. Also, there is no roaming which means you will always fall back to 4G-LTE or even 3G! And there is no published certification procedure or even 5G spec conformance testing. That’s likely because all pre-standard IMT 2020 specs are subject to radical change once the IMT 2020 standards are completed in late 2020 – early 2021.

    Finally, the U.S. should investigate and coordinate the apps that 5G network providers would like to provide so they can be available on all U.S. 5G networks which would ensure mobility, e.g. any moving vehicle (car, truck, train, ship, etc).

    If this does not happen, 5G in the U.S. is headed for the greatest “train wreck” in tech history!

    U.S. should take a lesson from South Korea and China where 5G rollouts are being coordinated by the respective national governments.

  2. By Brian Fung (edited by Alan J Weissberger for technical correctness and specificity)

    As U.S. officials have pressured allies not to use networking gear from Chinese technology giant Huawei over spying concerns, President Trump has urged American companies to “step up” and compete to provide the next generation of high-speed, low-lag wireless service known as 5G.

    There’s just one problem: Barely any U.S. companies manufacture the technology’s most critical components.

    The absence of a major U.S. alternative to foreign suppliers of 5G networking equipment underscores the growing dominance of Huawei, which has evolved into the world’s biggest supplier of telecom equipment, sparking fears within the Trump administration that a 5G network powered by Huawei’s wireless parts could endanger national security. And it throws into sharp relief the years-long retreat by U.S. firms from that market.

    Carriers such as Sprint and Verizon have moved swiftly to launch (pre-standard) 5G services for consumers. But the wireless networking gear the industry relies on still comes from foreign suppliers: four companies, Sweden’s Ericsson, Finland’s Nokia and China’s Huawei and ZTE, account for two-thirds of the global market for telecom equipment, according to analyst estimates.

    Some U.S. technology giants such as Cisco sell switches and routers that reside in the innermost parts of a carrier’s network. But despite its size, Cisco doesn’t compete in the market for “radio access,” or the wireless infrastructure that allows cell sites to connect with smartphones and other mobile devices.

    “There is no U.S.-based wireless access equipment provider today that builds those solutions,” said Sandra Rivera, a senior vice president at Intel who helps guide the chipmaker’s 5G strategy.

    It’s this part of the Internet ecosystem that is increasingly important as more devices and appliances gain wireless connectivity and smart capabilities. 5G is expected to shape technological innovation for years to come, providing mobile data connections for virtual-reality headsets, driverless cars and more. Proponents say 5G eventually will support download speeds of 1,000 megabits per second, roughly 100 times faster than today’s 4G-LTE standard.

    The rising global demand for 5G equipment highlights how the United States, a technology leader in other respects, is largely absent from the wireless networking industry. It reflects the decline of a once vibrant ecosystem of American companies that formerly went toe-to-toe with the likes of Nokia and Ericsson. And it puts a focus on Chinese firms such as Huawei, whose rise to prominence has come at the expense of Western networking titans and sparked a global campaign by U.S. officials eager to persuade allies not to allow Chinese equipment into their networks.

    At the dawn of the wireless age 30 years ago, U.S. companies jostled for primacy in wireless networking. Companies such as Motorola and Lucent — an offshoot of the old AT&T monopoly — were sources of innovation, exploring new ways of delivering voice and data wirelessly. It was Lucent, for example, that helped introduce Code Division Multiple Access, or CDMA, a mobile technology that promised to improve the capacity of wireless carriers.

    But their fortunes declined around the turn of the century as they failed to keep pace with a changing market. No U.S. company stepped in to fill the gap as those companies faded — partly because of the growing strength of foreign alternatives and partly because of the immense scale required to survive in that line of business, according to industry experts.

    “Lucent basically collapsed because they didn’t have a big enough wireless arm to keep them afloat when the Internet backbone [business] collapsed” in the dot-com bust, said Roger Entner, a telecom analyst at Recon Analytics. “Motorola, over time, simply became less competitive because the other vendors had more economies of scale.”

    Motorola and Lucent’s wireless infrastructure businesses were soon gobbled up by Finland’s Nokia and France’s Alcatel, respectively. One reason the European companies proved so successful, Entner said, was because the European industry agreed from the start to develop a common standard for wireless communication, known as GSM, that all European telecoms would share. By contrast, the industry in North America took a looser approach, with some carriers backing network technologies that weren’t mutually compatible.

    Take CDMA. First developed for mobile use in the 1990s, the standard was technologically superior, allowing carriers such as Verizon to pump more traffic through their cell sites over the same amount of time compared with alternative standards. But the technology created headaches for consumers who found they couldn’t keep their phones when they switched from Verizon to a network like T-Mobile’s, which ran on GSM.

    While the American approach allowed for more technological experimentation and innovation, a fragmented market based on competing standards made it more challenging for U.S. wireless equipment sellers to amass a large customer base.

    Today, Nokia and Ericsson are the top providers of telecommunications networking gear in North America and are No. 2 and No. 3, respectively, in the world. The two companies each recorded revenue of about $25 billion last year.

    But both have been surpassed by Huawei, which in the span of three decades has become the world’s largest provider of telecom equipment.

    “I do think the Western companies did underestimate how credible Huawei was,” said Paul de Sa, a telecom industry analyst and co-founder of the advisory firm Quadra Partners. “There were executives who basically laughed [at the idea] that Huawei or ZTE could compete.”

    Founded in the late 1980s by Ren Zhengfei, a former engineer for the Chinese military, Huawei began as a technology supplier for Chinese customers. But by the early 2000s, Huawei had begun selling globally, and now does a robust business not only in network equipment but also in consumer smartphones and enterprise services. Last month, the privately held company reported that it had finished 2018 with revenue of $107 billion, up 20 percent despite the U.S. campaign. Profits rose 25 percent, the company said, to $8.8 billion.

    To give another perspective on Huawei’s enormous influence, the company’s chief rivals, Nokia and Ericsson, account for 17 percent and 13 percent of the global market for telecom equipment, respectively, according to figures compiled by the research firm Dell’Oro Group.

    Huawei’s market share, at 29 percent, is nearly as large as both of them combined.

    Despite an early reputation for cheap knockoff hardware, Huawei today is recognized for low prices, reliable equipment and engaging customer service, analysts say. As Huawei has invested in its own research and development, even Western telecom companies acknowledge that Huawei’s products are as good as — if not better than — competing equipment from Nokia or Ericsson.

    “About 25 percent of our members have Huawei or ZTE” in their networks, Carri Bennet, an attorney for the Washington-based Rural Wireless Association, told lawmakers at a recent House Judiciary subcommittee hearing.

    Gordon Smith, the chief executive of Sagent, a network intelligence and analytics company formerly known as Clover Telecom, estimated that Huawei gear typically costs “tens of percents” less than the competition’s.

    With the support of China’s state-owned development bank, Huawei also has been able to undercut competitors with attractive financing for its products. In February alone, Huawei announced partnerships with wireless carriers in eight countries, including Iceland, Switzerland, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

    It doesn’t hurt that Huawei serves a massive domestic market in China, which grants it tremendous advantages of scale that many tech companies, including American ones, are hungry to access themselves. China is so critical to Apple, for example, that the iPhone maker blamed the country’s economic slowdown for a downward revision in Apple’s recent quarterly sales estimates — the company’s first such warning in 15 years.

    Huawei’s success, however, has been clouded by allegations of intellectual property theft.  The U.S. government accused two Huawei units this year of trying to copy a robotic arm used by T-Mobile to test smartphones. (Huawei has pleaded not guilty.) In the past, Huawei has also been accused of stealing technology from Cisco; the two firms became locked in a legal dispute in 2003 and settled months later, after Huawei conceded that Cisco-made code had ended up in a Huawei product. The code was later removed.

    Then there is Nortel Networks’ discovery in 2004 that hackers — traced to IP addresses in Shanghai — had stolen nearly 1,500 sensitive files from the Canadian telecom giant’s computer systems. The company’s subsequent investigation failed to prove China’s direct involvement, much less Huawei’s. But after analyzing the stolen files — which bore cryptic names such as “Photonic Crystals and Large Scale Integration,” “Eco_Strategy.ppt” and “HDX R2 Standard Reconfigurations Test Plan – Draft 0.2″ — and a months-long probe, Nortel’s security adviser at the time, Brian Shields, became convinced Huawei benefited indirectly from the breach. The file names, a list of which Shields provided to The Washington Post, have not been previously reported.

    “Nobody would be interested in these kinds of documents other than a competitor,” Shields said. “In my opinion, looking at what the hackers went after, it is likely these documents made it to Huawei.”   That seemingly ancient history is newly relevant, as U.S. officials argue that incorporating Huawei gear into U.S. carriers’ 5G networks poses a significant spying risk.

    At an industry conference in Barcelona in February (WMC 2019), U.S. officials urged allies in bilateral meetings not to use Huawei equipment over concerns that it could enable eavesdropping by authoritarian regimes. U.S. partners largely acknowledge the risk but have asked for more concrete evidence to back up the case.

    “The Europeans really keep pushing for this concept of, ‘Where’s the smoking gun?’ ” said a person familiar with the discussions, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak more freely about the closed-door meetings. “They say, ‘Hey, we don’t want security threats either … but you can’t just come in here and tell us that there is a unity of interest between Beijing and Huawei and have that be the end of your presentation.’ ”

    Some analysts say that in a previous era, America’s allies might have been more sympathetic to the Trump administration’s message. But Trump’s conduct, they say — berating NATO allies, canceling a visit to a World War I memorial because of rain, calling Europe a “foe” on trade — has not helped.

    “In a world where the U.S. had more soft power,” Entner said, “I’m pretty sure the Europeans would be a lot more receptive.”

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2019/04/10/us-spat-with-huawei-explained/

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