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January 29, 2020
Top officials from Mavenir are now promoting the company to US government officials as a US-based alternative to Chinese suppliers like Huawei.
"Mavenir noted that it is the industry's only US-owned, US-headquartered, end-to-end network software provider delivering OpenRAN and virtualized networks," the company told FCC officials, according to filings it made with the agency. "Mavenir shared how the OpenRAN concept could stimulate US-based suppliers to enter the 5G supply chain on a secure basis and stimulate US manufacturing of technology and software rather than offshoring it to China."
Mavenir's efforts come just weeks after the introduction of federal legislation -- currently wending through Congress with bipartisan support -- that would allocate up to $1 billion for investments into new open radio access network technologies (O-RAN). The legislation is designed to spur to US-based alternatives to controversial Chinese equipment vendors Huawei and ZTE. US officials argue equipment from those Chinese companies could be used for espionage, though Huawei and ZTE deny those allegations.
But that's not the only $1 billion pot of money Mavenir appears to be chasing. "Mavenir also discussed its ability to assist small rural carriers who have deployed ZTE and Huawei with the ability to migrate to OpenRAN and network virtualization efficiently and cost effectively," the company told FCC officials.
That's likely a nod to another, separate piece of federal legislation that would allocate another $1 billion to pay some small US wireless network operators to replace their existing network equipment provided by Huawei and ZTE with equipment from other, trusted vendors. That legislation too is moving through Congress.
Mavenir isn't the only company looking to draft off the current political climate in the US. Dish Network, for example, has said that it plans to use US suppliers in its planned 5G network. And Gogo did exactly that last year when it named Cisco (based in California), Airspan (based in Florida) and First RF (based in Colorado) as its main 5G network suppliers. Gogo previously had planned to build a 4G network with equipment from ZTE, but that project was scuttled in the wake of the Trump administration's temporary ban on US business with China's ZTE.
For its part, Mavenir pulled out all the stops in its presentation to top FCC officials, which included representatives from most of the agency's five commissioners as well as officials in the FCC's wireline bureau. Mavenir executives in the meetings ranged from Bejoy Pankajakshan (chief strategy officer) to John Baker (SVP of business development) to Hubert de Pesquidoux (chairman of the board and a representative of NYC-based Siris Capital, the private equity owner of Mavenir).
"To win the 5G Race with a strong US Supplier, the US Must... Promote US vendors when developing regulations will ensure national supply chain is secure," the company argued in its presentation to FCC officials. In the presentation, Mavenir pointed out it is headquartered in Richardson, Texas.
Finally, it's worth noting that Mavenir did acknowledge there's one big problem with its argument: The company doesn't make any physical 5G transmission equipment. "Availability of radios in the US bands is a fundamental US weakness," the company wrote, noting that such radios are manufactured in Taiwan, Korea and China. Mavenir argued for "low cost US managed volume manufacture of radios" that could run its software.
Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading
Based in Denver, Mike has covered the wireless industry as a journalist for almost two decades, first at RCR Wireless News and then at FierceWireless and recalls once writing a story about the transition from black and white to color screens on cell phones.
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