FCC agrees $1.9bn compensation to replace Huawei and ZTE kit

Rosenworcel at ITU.jpg

Any US operator with up to 10 million customers that bought Huawei or ZTE kit before the end of June 2020 is eligible for compensation to replace it.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted unanimously that carriers can apply for a share of US$1.9 billion to remove and replace equipment from the Chinese vendors.

Carriers with up to 10 million customers are eligible to apply, said the FCC – increasing the limit from the previous maximum of two million.

The FCC had already allocated $1.9 billion, but yesterday’s meeting confirmed it. They will be able to apply for compensation on or after 29 October.

Jessica Rosenworcel (pictured), acting chairwoman of the FCC, said: “The FCC will soon undertake what is perhaps the most significant federally funded effort to rebuild and secure commercial communications networks nationwide. This means we will evaluate network after network, base station after base station, and router after router until we have rooted out equipment that could undermine our national security.”

Her colleague on the FCC, Geoffrey Starks – also a Democrat – noted that he convened a workshop in June 2019 with aims “from understanding the scope of the problem in U.S. networks, to developing solutions for the threats posed by Huawei and ZTE equipment, to implementing a complex removal and replacement process”.

The FCC still has only four members, one below its normal complement. President Joe Biden made Rosenworcel acting chairwoman in January after his inauguration, but no one has yet been named as permanent chairman or chairwoman.

She said yesterday: “Removing insecure equipment from existing networks after installation is hard. Historically, these systems are closed and deeply integrated, with little opportunity to mix and match equipment from different vendors.”

Both Huawei and ZTE deny allegations that their equipment is insecure. No one has published any information to show any insecurity, but their kit is now actually or effectively banned from many countries, including Australia and much of Europe in addition to the US.

Rosenworcel said about replacing Huawei and ZTE kit: “Undertaking this process provides us with an opportunity to demonstrate for the world how to build a more secure future for 5G networks.”

Starks said: “We must also remember that many of our international partners are still navigating the process of identifying the untrustworthy equipment in their networks and setting out a plan to address the threat. We know that communications don’t stop at the water’s edge. Global security requires international cooperation.”