Rural America May Lose Carriers Following Trump's Huawei Ban

Small wireless carriers throughout the United States are facing serious issues stemming from their supply lines after President Donald Trump signed an executive order and subsequent blacklisting of Huawei earlier this month, citing major national security concerns.

Outside of the big four that covers the vast majority of the country, it's common for American carriers to largely rely on the cheapest possible equipment when it comes to delivering wireless service to customers living in rural parts of America. Parts that are sparsely populated, consequently making large-scale infrastructure deployment efforts inefficient at best and nearly impossible at worst.

SI Wireless, one such small-sized firm with operations in Tennessee and Kentucky, wrote to the Federal Communications Commission earlier this month, notifying it that complying with the Trump ban will cost it up to $60 millio as a lot of its infrastructure already relies on solutions created by the Shenzen-based firm. Given how its subscriber count is in the ballpark of only 20,000, it's presently unclear how SI Wireless is meant to comply with the ruling without risking its very solvency.

Another example is Union Wireless, a network operator doing business in Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, and Colorado. Besides covering twice as many states as SI Wireless, it also serves about twice as many customers, yet its transition to Huawei-made gear started even sooner, with some 75-percent of its infrastructure coming from the Chinese telecom juggernaut. The company estimates a full transition to another solution would cost it up to $300,000 million, which is a figure it simply isn't able to pay, yet the blacklisting of Huawei means that not doing so could the federal government hit it with even larger fines.

Cases such as these go on but the bottom line is that the White House moved to crippled Huawei with seemingly no regard for how doing so affects its very own companies, many of which employ hundreds and thousands of employees, not to mention the tens of thousands of customers living in rural parts of the country they're servicing because no one else is willing to do so due to buildout challenges and limited potential investment rewards. While some proponents of the current administration could argue President Trump considered that effect but decided to put U.S. national security above it, not only did the head of the country acknowledged smaller carriers and the impact his latest decision has on them in any way but he's been repeatedly quoted insinutating the sanctions against Huawei are primarily meant to provide the U.S. with more leverage in its trade negotiations with China.

That rhetoric is what's primarily fueling the political ammunition China is now using against the United States, claiming Washington is unfairly targeting its champion simply because its own companies cannot compete. Well, the latter part seems to be accurate enough; even the carriers that had not spent millions on Huawei gear prior to the ban are now far from pleased seeing how equipment from the likes of Ericsson and Nokia is significantly more expensive, whereas truly American alternatives are virtually non-existent.

A recent legislative effort saw a bipartisan ensemble of U.S. senators attempt to create a fund worth some $700 million in order to help the most vulnerable carriers move away from Huawei infrastructure but industry sources are claiming that sum wouldn't be nearly enough to save everyone, so it remains to be seen how rural America handles this anti-China push on the wireless front.

As for Huawei, its top management is still quite literally laughing at Trump and this entire ordeal.

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Dominik Bosnjak

Senior Writer
Dominik started at AndroidHeadlines in 2016. He’s approaching his first full decade in the media industry, with his background being primarily in technology, gaming, and entertainment. These days, his focus is more on the political side of the tech game, as well as data privacy issues, with him looking at both of those through the prism of Android. Contact him at [email protected]