Trump Ponders Banning All Chinese-Made Gear From US 5G Networks

from the unintended-consequences dept

We’ve already noted extensively how the “race to fifth generation wireless (5G)” is kind of a dumb thing. While 5G is important in the way that faster, better networks are always important, the purported Earth-rattling benefits of the technology have been painfully over-hyped. And they’ve been painfully over-hyped largely for two reasons: one, mobile carriers want to give a kick to stalling cellphone sales numbers, and network hardware vendors like Cisco want to drive the adoption of new, more expensive, telecom hardware.

The “race to 5G” isn’t a race. And even if it were, our broadband maps are so intentionally terrible, we’d have no idea if and when we’d won it. Regardless, 5G has subsequently become a sort of magic pixie dust of tech policy conversations, justifying all manner of sometimes dubious policy. But the underlying desire to simply sell more kit has also infected the Trump administration’s protectionist attacks on companies like Huawei, which is based on about 40% actual cybersecurity concerns, and 60% lobbying efforts by US hardware vendors that don’t want to compete with cheaper Chinese hardware.

The Trump administration’s war on Chinese network manufacturers has not been subtle, even though evidence supporting wholesale spying allegations against companies like Huawei has been arguably lacking. This week rumblings emerged that the Trump administration would soon be accelerating this effort by potentially banning absolutely any Chinese-made hardware from being used in US 5G networks, at all:

“As the Journal noted, such a requirement would force European companies Nokia Corp. and Ericsson, which currently dominate the sales of equipment to U.S. wireless carriers, to move their operations out of China or potentially lose access to the American market. That could potentially have a bigger impact on the market than any deal to end the ongoing trade standoff, as it may permanently alter the global technology markets?though both Nokia and Ericsson have already started working on plans to pull out of China due to the Trump administration?s escalating trade war tariffs.”

There’s a few problems with this. One remains the fact that despite an 18 month investigation, nobody has been able to provide a shred of proof that Huawei spies on Americans wholesale, the very allegation that began this whole effort. Two, smaller US telecom carriers say such bans will have a profoundly negative impact on their ability to compete in the States, since cheaper Chinese gear helps them better manage the tight margins of deploying service to lower ROI areas:

“RWA?s members estimate it might cost from $800 million to $1 billion for them to replace all the potentially affected gear from their wireless networks?costs they believe the government is legally required to reimburse.”

Guess who’ll pay for that? Hint: not carriers or the government.

The other problem is the myopic focus on Chinese telecom equipment. If the concern genuinely is cybersecurity, what about the Chinese hardware that exists in everything from smart refrigerators to residential routers? This all contains a universe of Chinese-made hardware susceptible to supply chain attacks. And what about the vast universe of shitty, poorly-secured IOT Chinese hardware that Americans happily connect to their home and business networks every day? If cybersecurity, and not say protectionism, is the real motivator, why is the focus so narrowly tailored to just telecom equipment?

Another problem remains the US’ hypocrisy on this subject. The NSA, with BFF AT&T, have been busted repeatedly spying on everything and everyone. The statement being made here is obvious to anybody not infected by patriotic fervor: it’s OK to covertly spy on the world if you’re the United States, but the faintest allegation of China doing the same thing will result in a massive protectionist ban. The same kind of ban we’d be freaking out over were the shoe to be on the other foot.

Again, none of this is to say that China is an angel or that it doesn’t routinely engage in some terrible behavior. But the Trump administration’s “solution” to these problems is light on evidence, myopic to a fault, largely hypocritical, and fails to really address the bigger problems at hand if concern for cybersecurity is genuinely the driving motivator.

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Companies: cisco, ericsson, huawei, nokia

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Comments on “Trump Ponders Banning All Chinese-Made Gear From US 5G Networks”

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45 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

now if the intent is pandering, then Trump is on it

What if the real intent was to just give billions of dollars of business to his cronies? I mean it’s not like Regan and Bush didn’t do the same to their Oil company cronies and buddies…

Telecom equipment is the new ‘black gold’ apparently and this is where Trump is going to strike it rich (and finally prove to all those naysayers that he is not a complete failure in business.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: now if the intent is pandering, then Trump is on it

This is Trump we’re talking about: He regularly does things to others that cost him nothing, just to have behaving normally as a bargaining chip for something else later down the line. It doesn’t need to go any deeper than that with him.

This could all just be to get Xi to treat him as an equal again.

Scary Devil Monastery says:

Re: "cheaper Chinese gear"?

"Doesn’t all telephone equipment, including consumer phones, contain chips made in China (incl. Taiwan)? AFAIK it’s not just the "cheap" gear."

Yep.

Tim Cook was once asked why Apple didn’t manufacture iPhones in the US. The answer was surprising to quite a lot of americans:

https://www.quora.com/How-much-would-an-iPhone-cost-if-Apple-were-forced-to-make-it-in-America

Apparently it’s not just cost. The US no longer possesses a pool of specialized precision tooling engineers big enough to manufacture electronic devices at all.

So almost every consumer electronic is now made in China simply because a few decades of outsourcing has ensured the US has lost the required pool of skillsets capable of precision manufacturing.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: "cheaper Chinese gear"?

So almost every consumer electronic is now made in China simply because a few decades of outsourcing has ensured the US has lost the required pool of skillsets capable of precision manufacturing.

No worries, I mean it’s not like there’s anyone stupid(and/or egotistical) enough to get in a trade war with China when they’ve got such massive leverage, where doing so would backfire horribly and screw over tens if not hundreds of millions of people…

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: "cheaper Chinese gear"?

"No worries, I mean it’s not like there’s anyone stupid(and/or egotistical) enough to get in a trade war with China when they’ve got such massive leverage…"

Yeah. No idiot would be dumb enough to get in a trade war with the country which now owns all the manufacturing ability on top of having the ability to turn the US dollar into monopoly money by just dumping their stock of debt bonds on the market.

The US has a major problem with allowing almost every high-precision tooling engineer profession to turn into a despised commodity. The proper response would be to encourage national industries to bring manufacturing home – tax cuts, subsidizing education, whatever.

Instead…Trump basically walked into a river, turned upstream, pulled down his pants and started pissing. All the while bragging about how he was showing the river in question what for.

The concept of a trade war being "winnable" is, especially under these conditions, like a mexican standoff where you are the only one whose gun is loaded with blanks.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Loaded with only the best, the greatest, foam darts

The concept of a trade war being "winnable" is, especially under these conditions, like a mexican standoff where you are the only one whose gun is loaded with blanks.

Ah, but a gun loaded with blanks looks indistinguishable from one loaded with real bullets until you pull the trigger, so it can still appear threatening to the other side. In this case I’d say it’s more like a mexican ‘standoff’ when one side’s holding a real gun and the other’s got a bright orange NERF ‘gun’.

Anonymous Coward says:

and exactly how, then, is the USA going to get a 5G network? Huawei is the best company for the job, it produces the best gear which is more reliable and cheaper than anything produced elsewhere, particularly in the USA! this ‘Hate Huawei’ thing that Trump has initiated, with no evidence EVER having been found, despite the accusations and the investigations, is ridiculous! the USA has one of the worst, if not THE worst broadband in any of the so-called Democratic, Free World countries, so it begs the question, is this being done simply to stop 5G being readily available in the USA at all? is it because the Telecom companies simply cant/dont want to spend any money upgrading aerials or whatever is needed? let’s face it, the cheat, lie and deceive every second of every day, get tax payers money on the promise of doing this, that or the other but just pocket that cash, sharing it out with the top management and those in government (and i’ll bet that includes the ‘top of the tree’ as well!!) who need to be ‘encouraged’ to let them do whatever the fuck they want as long as it isn’t anything to do with what they should be doing! if there was a company that was capable of delivering what is needed to achieve the 5G network and then cut Huawei out legally, because of being able to provide better products, cheaper, would that company not have been 1st choice from the beginning? perhaps the best thing for Huawei to do is pull out completely and let the USA fall into the ‘useless fuckers who cant even keep up with everyone else’ bracket! maybe failing miserably then on the stock market might make it wake up!

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

""best gear" LOL, what a bunch of garbage from a clear and blatant shill."

Maybe, maybe not.

But the real issue is that chinese electronics companies are beyond just building the actual chipsets (which are in both Cisco’s and Huawei’s technology) but have started outcompeting US companies such as Cisco in completed applications.

That’s plenty of argument for Trump to heed the lobby – or Breitbart, or Fox & Friends – and stand up waxing irately about whatever imaginary bogeyman he thinks is more likely to make for a good protectionist speech.

Anonymous Coward says:

Cybersecurity is a smokescreen

This isn’t about cybersecurity. That’s just how they’re trying to get the public to accept this.

both Nokia and Ericsson have already started working on plans to pull out of China due to the Trump administration’s escalating trade war tariffs.

This is the real motivation. Trump is trying to financially cripple China and reduce their standing in the economic top-10 through moving manufacturing out of that country. The original stated point of the tariffs was to drive off-shored manufacturing back home and that remains the point despite whatever falls out of their talk-holes after the fact.

Huawei is a convenient boogeyman to blame for all of this but it’s complete bullshit.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Cybersecurity is a smokescreen

"Trump is trying to financially cripple China and reduce their standing in the economic top-10 through moving manufacturing out of that country."

Which is basically not going to work. Thanks to several decades of China encouraging a talent pool of precision engineers and mass-manufacturing-specialized high-tier professionals and the same decades ensuring those specialist jobs are dead ends in the west, the US and much of the rest of the west currently lacks the technical capacity to fill the gap.

In other words, even if the US wanted to get those jobs to come back again they are still looking at having to invest heavily in educating people capable of filling those jobs, like china first did.

Until that happens, China retains the manufacturing monopoly.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

RWA’s members estimate it might cost from $800 million to $1 billion for them to replace all the potentially affected gear from their wireless networks

Quick, somebody call the waaaaaaambulance! After nearly half a century of profiting hand-over-fist by outsourcing American jobs to China with no thought either for the damage it was doing to the broader economy nor for the horrific human-rights implications happening a convenient half-a-world away, when someone finally gets around to walking back one of our worst foreign policy decisions of all time just a tiny bit, they start freaking out over how it might cost them money.

Well, this is the world’s smallest violin playing the world’s saddest song for them. Maybe if they hadn’t built their business model on such a corrupt and blatantly evil foundation, they wouldn’t find themselves in this sort of pain when we start looking seriously at fixing it!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

they start freaking out over how it might cost them money.

Let’s be clear: it’s going to cost all of us money, not just because the telcos will raise our rates but because almost all the technology we’re using is made (at least partially) in China.

Is there any made-in-USA smartphone? Even ignoring raw materials, is there any without integrated circuits made in China? Can we suddenly bring back US tech manufacturing in time for 5G?

Zof (profile) says:

Outside the US, this story is just over and has been.

Yup. Nobody is talking about it. They are busy buying Huawei phones, which show no sign of slowing down, to use on Huawei’s standard setting 5G network that’s going up worldwide outside the USA. Yanno, for the other 7 Billion people that aren’t American. Where they aren’t inundate with state sponsored fan fiction about Huawei.

Scary Devil Monastery says:

Re: Outside the US, this story is just over and has been.

"They are busy buying Huawei phones, which show no sign of slowing down, to use on Huawei’s standard setting 5G network that’s going up worldwide outside the USA."

Half right. Huawei phones are the new Samsung – decent quality, good pricing, nice design.

As for 5G however, it’s still in the air whether it’ll be practical to start with. Last I checked all the hype in the world isn’t going to change the laws of physics to the point where signal strength falloff isn’t going to turn a "5G" phone into an effective 3G one unless you’re physically leaning on the signal source.

https://www.rfwireless-world.com/Terminology/5G-Speed-Vs-5G-Range.html

Basically, 5G range is comparable to that of a wifi router. That means it isn’t enough to have a 5G-capable phone. You need the area you’re in littered with signal repeaters as well.

Anonymous Coward says:

Hmmm…. IIRC 4G baseband chip development, in the U.S. is/was crippled due to patents.

Obviously we won’t do the same to 5G, and will have lots of U.S based baseband chip makers competing for market share right.

(PS Note the lack of a question mark at the end… yeah I really did mean to put a period there.)

Anonymous Coward says:

in a nutshell

We can’t manufacture the chips here because?:
-all employees want a 6 figure salary & benefits (no American will work for the wages that a Chinese person makes; we want $15/hr minimum wage!)
-all employers only ever increasing quarterly gains to please their stock holders (unsustainable)
-automation won’t fix this because the ‘gubment’ still must be paid and will, eventually, start taxing corporations for robot use -to make up for the taxes lost on former human workers

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: in a nutshell

"all employees want a 6 figure salary & benefits (no American will work for the wages that a Chinese person makes; we want $15/hr minimum wage!)"

  • bullshit

Is the cost of living is comparable between the two? Of course not. But let’s make comparisons anyway.

Look at this orange, is just like that apple over there isn’t it? Now compare it to that fruit salad. Isn’t this informative?

Gerald Robinson (profile) says:

5G fake

5G is a tell wet dream for ripping off the public! So I get 10mg data that’s great for the Telco (remember the 100mB data cap) to make more money faster! A real boost to the economy would be for Congress to fix the FCC, they are congressman’s critter not the president’s, by recalling tax breaks, subsidies, and band width until they meat their promises and obligations. Lack of real broadband is strangling youth the giants and the startups. Not just the internet companies, but all companies that rely on the internet.

5G is a fake and should be banned until the Telco make good.

As for ‘net connected junk broadcasting your data-you don’t own it so why is it in your house spying on you?!

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