The Trump administration is working in conjunction with tech companies to develop 5G software that could be used on machines from most hardware manufacturers, in an attempt to reduce American reliance on hardware developed by Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei.
“The big-picture concept is to have all of the U.S. 5G architecture and infrastructure done by American firms, principally,” White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow told the Wall Street Journal. “That also could include Nokia and Ericsson because they have big U.S. presences.”
Kudlow said both Dell and Microsoft are moving to develop software and cloud capabilities in line with the U.S. initiative.
The U.S. considers Huawei to have deep connections with the Chinese military, and is concerned with potential cybersecurity threats posed by use of Huawei technology. Huawei is the leading global supplier and manufacturer of 5G hardware.
“The problem is [the U.S. is] starting late in the game to fix this problem,” commented Paul Triolo, head of global technology policy at consulting firm Eurasia Group.
The U.S. initiative comes as it tries to prevent allies from adopting Huawei 5G networks. U.K. Prime Minster Boris Johnson announced earlier this month that Huawei would assist the country in building parts of its 5G infrastructure despite dire warnings from U.S. officials that the move could jeopardize intelligence sharing.
The U.S. is also attempting to balance trade restrictions with China with American companies’ need to sell equipment to Huawei in order to remain in business. In late January the Pentagon eased certain restrictions on companies that sell to Huawei.
“We have to be conscious of sustaining those [technology] companies’ supply chains and those innovators,” defense secretary Mark Esper said at the time.
Senator Tom Cotton (R., Ark.), a longtime China hawk, slammed the move.
“It’s bad enough when capitalists are willing to sell the rope that will be used to hang us, but worse still when our military acts as their lobbyist,” Cotton wrote on Twitter. “I intend to get to the bottom of this ill-considered decision.”