FCC Chairman Vows To Block China Mobile From Entering US

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman, Ajit Pai, made a statement, Wednesday, announcing his opposition to China Mobile's bid to provide telecommunications services in the US.

FCC officials will vote on whether to deny the application, first filed in 2011, next month.

Pai said he opposed China Mobile's entry into the US market because the Chinese company posed a risk to national security interests.

"Safeguarding our communications networks is critical to our national security" said Pai in a statement. "After reviewing the evidence in this proceeding, including the input provided by other federal agencies, it is clear that China Mobile’s application to provide telecommunications services in our country raises substantial and serious national security and law enforcement risks.

“Therefore, I do not believe that approving it would be in the public interest. I hope that my colleagues will join me in voting to reject China Mobile’s application.”

The comments come during a period when the US is moving to limit wider Chinese involvement in the telecommunications sector, particularly as Western economies begin rolling out 5G networks.

The technology promises to provide 100 times faster download speeds for mobile internet users than existing 4G networks. However, China Mobile only sought to provide phone services for international calls made from the US. It did not seek to provide wireless internet services to US customers.

The Trump administration had directed the FCC to oppose China Mobile's application last March, citing that it would allow the company to "interconnect and have greater access to telephone lines, fiber-optic cables, cellular networks and communication satellites throughout the United States’ telecommunications network."

China Mobile is one of the largest mobile operators in the world, with 900 million subscribers. The company, along with Chinese counterparts such as Huawei and ZTE, has expanded its global reach by providing network infrastructure in other countries. Some governments believe this is a component of the Chinese government's wider project of geopolitical expansion through its companies.

The US has mounted an international campaign, which includes Australia and New Zealand, to block Huawei's participation in the development of 5G networks. Germany and Britain are also considering restricting Huawei.

In an effort to counter some of these restrictions, Huawei has made an informal complaint to the World Trade Organization about Australia's ban on its participation in 5G.

China Mobile USA, a Delaware incorporated company, filed the application on behalf of its parent company, China Mobile. FCC officials believe that, through subsidiaries and indirectly, the China Mobile is owned and controlled by the Chinese government.

Last March, Pai recommended a new rule that would bar US carriers, for example Verizon and Sprint, from using Universal Service Funds (USF) to purchase Chinese telecoms equipment for their networks. FCC officials will vote on that rule, as well as China Mobile's application, on May 9. It is not clear how other commissioners plan to vote.

Meanwhile, the White House has said it is making progress on  talks with China on trade. The two countries have engaged in an escalating trade war for months; imposing steep tariffs on one and another's imports.

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