Telco Suppliers Join Trump Opposition, but Network Operators Remain Silent

Technology-sector opposition to Donald Trump's controversial "Muslim" travel ban is growing, with another 30 companies signing a legal brief that takes aim at the president's move.

The new signatories since yesterday morning include Adobe Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: ADBE), Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD) and HP Inc. (NYSE: HPQ) and mean that a total of 127 technology companies have now expressed their opposition to a proposed travel ban that would at least temporarily prevent citizens from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from entering the US.

Opponents of the ban, which also include technology giants such as Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL), Facebook, Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) and Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) say it will hinder innovation and growth. (See Telcos Tight-Lipped on Trump Travel Ban as Tech Titans Take Fire.)

Many of Silicon Valley's most successful companies have relied on easy access to overseas software expertise and are concerned about the implications of a ban for their own organizations.

The 127 names include software companies, hardware organizations and high-profile web players, but the legal brief has yet to attract support from any of the country's major telcos.

Having reacted warmly to Trump's proposals on taxation and net neutrality legislation, the likes of AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), T-Mobile US Inc. and Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) may be worried about incurring the president's displeasure before his stance on industry consolidation has become entirely clear.

Following some positive indicators, they are hoping that Trump's administration will be less resistant to takeover activity than its predecessor was. The eventual sale of T-Mobile to Sprint or a US cable operator is just one deal that executives may be eagerly anticipating. (See Could Trump Give a Boost to German Broadband?)

Nevertheless, their silence on the immigration issue puts the telcos at loggerheads with other technology players, including some of their own suppliers.

Brocade, a new signatory, sells IP equipment used in telco networks, while Apple makes the famous iPhone that has fueled data traffic growth on those networks.

For all the latest news from the wireless networking and services sector, check out our dedicated mobile content channel here on Light Reading.

So far, Aeris Communications Inc. appears to be the only network operator that has signed the legal brief. The Santa Clara-based company operates a cellular network used exclusively for Internet of Things connections.

Telcos have undoubtedly been less dependent than web players on overseas talent, although several may be worried about the implications of a travel ban for some of their employees.

The growing importance of software in the telecom industry could arguably make telcos more exposed to the effects of a clampdown on immigration in future. Software companies based in the US have relied heavily on expertise from other parts of the world to grow their businesses, and there is already concern that Trump's proposed ban -- which has encountered legal opposition from several quarters -- could be extended in duration and to other countries.

Even if telcos think a ban will have limited direct impact, it seems improbable the negative consequences suppliers are anticipating would not somehow affect the service providers themselves.

— Iain Morris, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, News Editor, Light Reading

mendyk 2/8/2017 | 12:46:10 PM
three's a crowd Three photos of 45 on the LR home page is at least two too many, no?
mendyk 2/7/2017 | 11:01:58 AM
with an asterisk At least some of the "opposition" has been prodded by rank-and-file employees rather than directly from leadership. Good capitalists know that when it comes to politics, fence-straddling is the safe approach.
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