Trump’s administration calls on the FCC to block China Mobile

Trump’s administration continues to be wary of Chinese telecoms firms as it asks the FCC not to grant a license to China Mobile.

Citing national security concerns, the U.S. National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) recommended the FCC deny China Mobile Ltd’s application to offer telecommunications services from within the United States.

State-owned China Mobile is the world’s largest phone carrier by subscribers, with over 902 million users as of June 2018. The company first applied for a license to provide telecoms services from within the U.S. in 2011.

In a statement, Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information David J Redl said:

“After significant engagement with China Mobile, concerns about increased risks to U.S. law enforcement and national security interests were unable to be resolved.

Therefore, the Executive Branch of the U.S. government, through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration pursuant to its statutory responsibility to coordinate the presentation of views of the Executive Branch to the FCC, recommends that the FCC deny China Mobile’s Section 214 license request.”

Chinese telecoms firms have faced many difficulties in other markets, but recent months have seen a heightened amount of distrust from both the U.S. and other markets.

Perhaps the biggest recent story was the U.S. government's decision to ban Chinese state-owned technology giant ZTE after it violated trade bans with North Korea and Iran. The ban was said to have cost the company at least $3 billion in losses.

Following pressure from Beijing, the U.S. lifted the ban providing ZTE paid a $1 billion penalty, hired a compliance team chosen by the U.S., and replaced much of its management board.

The decision to reverse the ban was not without its own controversy as watchdog group CREW (Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington) raised concerns of corruption. Experts said the speed in which 34 trademarks related to Ivanka Trump’s business were approved mere days before the ZTE ban reversal, is unusual.

Republican Senator Marco Rubio further stirred things up saying a bill to stop Chinese telecoms companies from operating in the US altogether would garner super-majority support in Congress.

Outside the U.S., similar calls have been made.

In Australia, Labor MP Michael Danby called for a ban on buying 5G network equipment from Chinese firms claiming they are ‘controlled’ by the government. He was speaking to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull who previously barred Chinese telecoms equipment giant Huawei from bidding for the National Broadband Network (NBN).

The problems between the U.S. and China are set to a backdrop of wider tensions over trade outside the telecoms industry. On Friday, the two economic giants are expected to introduce the first 25 percent tariffs on $34bn worth of each other's goods.

Do you believe the national security concerns are justified? Let us know in the comments.

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