FCC continues bid to remove Huawei gear from US networks

(Image credit: Vodafone)

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has made further progress on plans to require US telcos to remove and replace equipment from vendors such as Huawei that are deemed to be a threat to national security.

The communications regulator has voted to create and publish a list of what it considers to be insecure services and equipment, allowing affected operators to apply for government funding to source alternatives from approved suppliers.

Both Huawei and ZTE had appealed their designations as security risks, but the US has now doubled down on these assertions despite the denials of wrongdoing. Meanwhile, the FCC has also banned US operators from providing services to China Telecom.

Huawei USA

The publication of a list provides a legal route for the implementation of the removal programme and pave the way for up to $1.6 billion to be made available by US Congress to affected operators.

“Today, we establish ‘rip and replace’ rules and largely adopt our prior proposals for creating a reimbursement program to remove and replace insecure equipment and services in our nation’s networks,” declared FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.

“We create a reimbursement program to subsidize smaller carriers and other providers of advanced communications services to remove and replace those services and equipment. We adopt procedures for publishing a list of covered equipment. And we adopt reporting requirements so that we are informed about the continued presence of covered equipment in the nation’s communications networks.”

Chinese equipment vendors have largely been excluded from the US market due to ongoing concerns about security, with major carriers opting to use radio equipment from Ericsson, Nokia, and others.

However, several smaller providers use kit from Huawei and ZTE because it is relatively inexpensive. The Rural Wireless Association, which represents operators with fewer than 100,000 customers, estimates a quarter of its members have Chinese-made kit in their networks.

American telcos were already banned from using any grants from an $8.3 billion universal service fund on Huawei or ZTE equipment.

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.