Sprint/T-Mobile $146bn merger ‘has security worries’, claims lobby group

06 November 2018 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

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The former politician who six years ago helped stop Chinese vendors supplying US telcos is now campaigning against the Sprint/T-Mobile US merger.

Mike Rogers, a Republican politician who was in the House of Representatives until 2015, has set up a lobby group, Protect America’s Wireless, which is pointing to alleged security threats if a merger goes ahead. 

The organisation has posted on Twitter, saying: “Is journalist-murdering Saudi Arabia your next cell phone provider? Why you should worry”, and “By continuing to work with Huawei and Softbank, Sprint is allowing Chinese and Saudi inflitration of American computer and telecom networks. Tell the FCC these issues must be thoroughly investigated!

Rogers, who was a representative for Michigan, chaired the permanent select committee on intelligence when it published a report in 2012 that effectively resulted in Huawei and ZTE being blocked from US telecoms contracts.

David Wade, former chief of staff at the State Department and previously chief of staff to Senator John Kerry, a Democrat, is also linked to the campaign against the merger, via his lobby group GreenLight Strategies. Wade is also a lobbyist for Facebook, according to the ProPublica website.

The 2012 House of Representatives report said the US “should view with suspicion the continued penetration of the US telecommunications market by Chinese telecommunications companies” and made a similar recommendation about private-sector companies.

Six years later Rogers, who since leaving Congress has been presenting a CNN series on national security and espionage, is involved with Protect America’s Wireless, though the organisation has not revealed its sources of funding or management.

It says on its website: “There are real national security and foreign policy implications that should be explored about the proposed merger of Sprint and T-Mobile.”

It notes that the parent companies of both – SoftBank and Deutsche Telekom respectively – use Huawei and ZTE kit in their networks. The organisation says, though without citing evidence: “As we see nearly every day, foreign entities, competitors, and adversaries are targeting American networks to gain access to government secrets, economic information, and personal data – and we can only expect it to increase.”

At the moment the organisation’s website provides little apart from links to articles from a number of publications, including one on SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son’s position on Saudi Arabian investment in his Vision Fund. 

Deutsche Telekom is set to take effective control of the merged Sprint/T-Mobile US as SoftBank has agreed the German company can manage its shareholding. The merger would create a $146 billion company

Protect America’s Wireless says it “was founded in October 2018 after revelations about Chinese infiltration of American computer networks became public, and it has also raised questions about foreign ownership interests in a combined Sprint T-Mobile following the brutal murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi”.

It adds: “Protect America’s Wireless is a non-profit organization of foreign policy and national security professionals, including experts and analyst from think tanks, as well as former senior State Department officials.”