White House says it's not considering a national 5G network

The 5G tunnel at the Intel booth at CES in Las Vegas earlier this month. Jae C. Hong  AP

National security officials in the Trump administration laid out the plans in a PowerPoint presentation and memo obtained by the news website Axios.

The documents suggest two options for how a centralized nationwide 5G network would be built and paid for.

The top US communications regulator on Monday said he opposed an idea by some security officials to counter the threat of China spying on USA phone calls by having the government build and run a national, super-fast 5G wireless network.

Carriers have already spent billions of dollars acquiring spectrum and beginning to develop and test 5G networks, which are expected to be at least 100 times faster than current 4G networks and cut latency to less than one thousandth of a second from one one hundredth of a second in 4G, the FCC said.

President Donald Trump's national security team is mulling a plan to nationalize the newest generation of high-speed wireless internet networks, sparking sharp criticism Monday from across industry and the political spectrum.

"We want to build a network so the Chinese can't listen to your calls", one government official told Reuters. The best way to do this, the memo argues, would be for the government to build a network itself.

The documents reportedly go on to say that a model for government-controlled 5G infrastructure could be exported to other countries that are U.S. allies to guard against Chinese interference.

But nationalizing the construction of new wireless infrastructure - formerly handled by competing companies in the tech and telecom industries - would represent an unprecedented shift from the private sector to the government.

The report comes amid signs of rising tension between the United States and China, which President Donald Trump has long criticized in discussions about global trade as a threat to United States jobs and economic prosperity.

But the proposal - which would run counter to the longstanding U.S. policy of relying on private telecom networks - drew immediate rebukes from the industry and even from USA regulatory officials.

"The wireless industry agrees that winning the race to 5G is a national priority", Meredith Attwell Baker, president and CEO of CTIA, a group that counts AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile as members, said in a statement. "We have to have a secure network that doesn't allow bad actors to get in".

In 2012, Chinese network and telecoms equipment makers Huawei and ZTE were investigated for their ties to alleged espionage on American artificial infrastructure.

A Huawei spokesman said the company was looking into the reported 5G plan and had no further comment. There is a worldwide race to lead in 5G and other nations are poised to win.

Update: FCC chairman Ajit Pai has issued a statement strongly opposing the idea. Industry standards have been set, trials have been underway since 2016, and later this year AT&T is set to be the first to launch mobile 5G service in 12 US locations. The process for setting 5G standards is also well underway, all around the world.

He also said certain USA mobile network operators have already spent billions of dollars in buying mobile spectrum in the 600-megahertz frequency band for use in launching 5G services.

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