Trump readies executive order banning Chinese telecom equipment

President Donald Trump is expected to sign an executive order this week banning Chinese telecom equipment from U.S. networks. (FierceWireless)

President Donald Trump is planning to sign a long-delayed executive order this week that will ban Chinese telecom equipment from America’s wireless networks, according to Politico. Multiple unnamed sources confirmed the plans to Politico, adding that the administration wants to get the directive signed before MWC Barcelona kicks off in a couple of weeks.

The annual conference, which brings together the biggest players in telecom around the world, is creating a heightened sense of urgency for the administration. Many operators are buying or preparing to buy new hardware for 5G networks, and many discussions will center around 5G efforts at the event.

Huawei, which typically has a strong presence at MWC Barcelona, is the largest wireless network equipment vendor in the world, but opposition to the company has been growing. Despite strong and repeated denials from Huawei’s leadership, the U.S. government is convinced that Huawei and other Chinese vendors like ZTE work at the behest of the Chinese government and there is growing concern that their equipment could be used to spy on Americans and U.S. allies.

Mobile World Congress 2019

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The executive order has been under consideration for more than nine months, but the administration is now determined to preempt MWC with a formal directive. Trump previously signed a bill that barred the U.S. government from using Huawei and ZTE equipment.

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With 5G contracts going out now and 5G deployments widely expected to the dominant topic at the wireless industry’s largest conference, the U.S. government wants to minimize cybersecurity risks as 5G networks become a reality. A group of at least 20 U.S. government officials including FCC Chairman Ajit Pai will be attending MWC Barcelona, according to Politico.

Any formal action against Huawei will have an tremendous impact on the industry at large. It could also impact the speed at which operators deploy 5G during a critical period of transition for the wireless industry. The company has a strong presence in Europe, Africa and Asia, and while operators around the globe are clamoring to beat competitors with 5G services, uncertainty about Huawei’s equipment and its ability to take part in 5G deployments could shift significant attention to industry stalwarts like Ericsson, Nokia, Qualcomm and others.