US rural carriers ‘stunned’ by FCC ban on Huawei and ZTE

US rural carriers ‘stunned’ by FCC ban on Huawei and ZTE

02 July 2020 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

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The organisation that represents mobile phone operators in rural parts of the US have complained at the immediate banning of Huawei and ZTE.

The Rural Wireless Association (RWA), whose members each have fewer than 100,000 subscribers, told the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that is was “stunned” by the decision to impose an immediate ban on buying equipment and services from the two vendors with the Universal Service Fund (USF). The ban also covers buying maintenance or other support for existing infrastructure.

“As a result, rural carriers who have deployed Huawei or ZTE equipment or services in their networks will now lack the ability to support their critical networks that are serving hundreds of thousands of rural Americans and those traveling through rural America,” said the RWA in its strongly-worded statement.

The association warned that “this puts rural carriers in a precarious situation while they strive to offer extended payment terms for their customers as requested by FCC chairman [Ajit] Pai, adjust to the fallout of the T-Mobile/Sprint merger, and continue to keep rural Americans connected to broadband and telephone services during the Covid-19 pandemic.”

The RWA complained about the suddenness of the ruling – which was made on 30 June and came into effect the following day, yesterday.

“RWA members appreciate the opportunity to submit waivers of this prohibition but ask the Commission to give them sufficient time to submit such waivers before pulling away their USF support,” the association said.

Only last week the RWA told the FCC that – despite having their legacy support frozen in 2013 – they had succeeded in expanding services.

Members have “increased data speeds for rural customers from less than 10Mbps to more than 25Mbps”, the association told the FCC, deployed new sites and upgraded others, and “increased the percentage of their covered service areas when migrating from 2G to 3G to 4G LTE services”.

The RWA added: “The increases in coverage and upgrades to service were performed using $30 million in federal funds annually over the past seven years.”

The association has this year expanded its membership range to include providers of fixed-wireless broadband internet services.