Saturday, 30 May 2020

US–China tensions flare as FCC threatens to revoke Chinese telco licences

by Harry Baldock, Total Telecom
Monday 27 April 20

China’s alleged cover-up of the COVID-19 outbreak has renewed tensions, with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) telling Chinese telcos to prove they are not government puppets

Friday saw the FCC issue a provocative ultimatum to four Chinese telcos: prove you have no links to the Chinese government or lose the right to operate in the US.   The decision comes after increasing tensions regarding the Chinese government’s handling of the COVID-19 outbreak, with US claiming that the supposed government cover…

Friday saw the FCC issue a provocative ultimatum to four Chinese telcos: prove you have no links to the Chinese government or lose the right to operate in the US.
 
The decision comes after increasing tensions regarding the Chinese government’s handling of the COVID-19 outbreak, with US claiming that the supposed government cover-up shows exactly why they should be suspicious of Chinese telcos.
 
"Since communist China is willing to disappear its own people to advance the regime's geopolitical agenda, it is appropriate for the FCC to closely scrutiniwe telecom carriers with ties to that regime," said FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr.
 
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai was slightly less inflammatory, saying that “we simply cannot take a risk and hope for the best when it comes to the security of our networks.”
 
The four Chinese companies – China Telecom, China Unicom, Pacific Networks, and ComNet – have been given 30 days to respond to the “Show Cause Orders” and demonstrate that they operate independently from the Chinese government.
 
These operators were first granted approval over a decade ago, but the FCC said that the security threat represented by the Chinese government had “grown significantly” since that time.
 
Under the Trump administration, the FCC has been at the forefront of a trade-war that has seen major Chinese vendor Huawei blacklisted, with geopolitical ramifications playing out across the world, from Europe to Africa.
 
Last May, China Mobile was denied a US licence following a unanimous vote by the FCC and the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic since then has done nothing to soothe tensions between China and the US; indeed, just earlier this month there were calls to revoke China Telecom’s licence. 
 
The conflict even rages beneath the waves, with the FCC recently granting permission for Google to  activate part of its subsea cable that links the US to Asia, but not the part which connects the network to Hong Kong.
 
With the US–China trade war showing no signs of stopping despite the global crisis, the ball is now in the Chinese operators’ court when it comes to proving their legitimacy. 
 
 
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