FCC looks to ban 'national security risk' vendors from US telcos

The US could ban telecoms subsidies from being used to purchase equipment from suppliers considered to be a national security threat.

Federal Communications Chairman Ajit Pai’s proposals would stop any money received from the $8.5 billion Universal Service Fund being used to purchase routers, switches and “virtually any other type” of telecommunications equipment from certain vendors.

The plan has now been shared with Pai’s fellow commissioners and will be voted upon at a meeting next month.


No companies were named specifically, but Chinese giant Huawei has effectively been frozen out of the US market because of national security concerns. Specifically, there are fears about ‘backdoors’ in telecoms networks that could allow a hostile government to launch malware attacks, stage DDoS assaults or steal sensitive data.

For its part, Huawei has always denied any such risk and is key partner for many UK telecoms firms, including BT, EE and Vodafone.

“Although the FCC alone can’t safeguard the integrity of our communications supply chain, we must and will play our part in a government- and industry-wide effort to protect the security of our networks,” said Pai.

“The money in the Universal Service Fund comes from fees paid by the American people, and I believe that the FCC has the responsibility to ensure that this money is not spent on equipment or services that pose a threat to national security.

Earlier this month, President Trump vetoed Broadcom’s acquisition of Qualcomm on national security grounds. The order cited fears that Broadcom would not continue the same level of investment into research and development, allowing Chinese vendors such as Huawei to take the lead in 5G.

The FCC will meet on 14 April, where it will also vote on a public notice for input unto the procedure for the upcoming auction of 24GHz and 28GHz spectrum. These millimetre Wave (mmWave) bands will be used in the first tranche of 5G services which are expected to arrive in the US next year.


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.