Lawmakers seek 5G rivals to Huawei
Lawmakers on Wednesday heard from executives at top telecommunications companies as the Senate Commerce Committee weighed measures to prevent Chinese giant Huawei from getting a foothold in the emerging U.S. 5G network.
The hearing on “5G supply chain security” featured executives from companies including Nokia and Ericsson, who touted their technology as a viable and secure alternative and offered their support for legislation to help American telecom providers replace Huawei equipment.
Washington has grappled with the question of how to exclude Huawei, the largest provider of 5G equipment worldwide, as the U.S. begins a massive rollout of 5G. Concerns largely stem from a 2017 Chinese intelligence law that requires Chinese companies and citizens to assist in state intelligence work if requested.
5G executives weigh in: European firms Nokia and Ericsson are often cited as the largest competitors for manufacturing 5G equipment.
Jason Boswell, the head of security for Ericsson’s Network Product Solutions, testified that Ericsson saw their products as “the best in the world.” He argued that should the U.S. decide to rely on Ericsson for 5G equipment, the company saw no “restrictions on our ability to meet manufacturing demand.”
Michael Murphy, the chief technology officer for Nokia in the Americas region, noted that while Huawei was a “formidable opponent” due to the heavy investment by Chinese banks into the company and its market share, he did “not feel we are at a technical disadvantage to being able to keep on par with Huawei.”
On Capitol Hill: Concern around Huawei on Capitol Hill has been a rare area of bipartisan agreement in recent months, and the Trump administration made convincing allied nations to ban the company from their networks a key priority. But finding a replacement for Huawei’s products has been a challenge for Washington.
Both Boswell and Murphy also on Wednesday threw their weight behind the Secure and Trusted Communications Network Act, which the House passed in December and which passed unanimously in the Senate last week.
It would ban the use of federal funds to buy telecom equipment from companies deemed a national security threat, such as Huawei or Chinese firm ZTE. The bill would also create a $1 billion program to assist small telecom providers, mostly in rural areas in the U.S., who depend heavily on Huawei equipment, giving them funding to rip out the equipment posing a threat and replace it with equipment from “trusted providers.”
Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) during the hearing said he expected President Trump to soon sign the bill, putting a major dent in Huawei’s business.
“It was a statement by the House and the Senate as a whole on a bipartisan basis, and I expect the president will be signing that legislation with some fanfare in the next few days,” Wicker said.
Huawei fires back: Huawei on Wednesday pushed back against Nokia and Ericsson’s claims.
Huawei USA Chief Security Officer Andy Purdy told The Hill following the hearing that “there is really only one telecom equipment supplier for 5G around the world, and that is Huawei,” adding that Nokia’s and Ericsson’s claims of industry dominance “don’t have a basis in facts.”
“Why doesn’t the community organize public bake-offs, competitions between the technologies?” Purdy said. “I encourage that kind of competition.”
Purdy said Huawei was “really concerned” for its telecom customers in the U.S. if Trump signs the Secure and Trusted Communications Network Act, which he said was “forcing pain” on those companies.
“It is going to take more time and cost more time and money than the elected officials recognize,” Purdy said.
Don Morrissey, Huawei’s director of congressional affairs, told The Hill that while Huawei was not invited to testify at Wednesday’s hearing, they “would like to have been.” Morrissey noted that the company was reaching out to committee members to argue their side in a “methodical way.”