Buy American: Will It Affect the Telecom Sector?

It's really hard to tell right now.

Dan Jones, Mobile Editor

June 21, 2017

2 Min Read
Buy American: Will It Affect the Telecom Sector?

Now that the FirstNet emergency responders network project is finally underway, it is as good a time as any to ask: Will the Trump administration's "Buy American" initiative impact the telecom sector?

You may remember this Executive Order from April 17. In essence, it calls for government agencies to buy and hire American wherever possible, as soon as possible. The heads of all government agencies are supposed to be checking on compliance with these rules by September 15.

Of course, that gets interesting when you are dealing with wireless network infrastructure providers, all of which are multi-national operations, and none of which are headquartered in the United States anymore. [Note: We can discount Huawei and ZTE since they're already shut out of US government dealings.]

Initially, AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) will use its existing LTE network to offer first responders a dedicated channel for emergency communications. A further buildout using 20MHz of 700MHz D-Band spectrum, however, will follow. (See AT&T's Gig Economy Driven by Spectrum Obsession in 2017.)

This is where things could get interesting: AT&T has -- so far -- used Swedish vendor Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) and Finnish provider Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) for 4G LTE infrastructure deployment.

Over the last couple of months, I've asked all three whether they think that the "Buy American" order could impact the FirstNet project in particular. The short answer to that? Nobody is really sure yet, what -- if anything -- it all means.

Nokia had this to say to me in an email recently:

  • As in other countries, there are certain categories and types of products where there is not a strong domestic supplier, or the components that comprise the products are not available domestically. Nokia is a critical supplier of many types of telecommunications technology that are not available from U.S. companies. Under Buy America, it’s unclear how the policy, which is still developing, will work in practice. Therefore, in many cases our products may not be impacted. Where there is a potential impact, we will evaluate alternative sourcing for components and associated activities in order to bring those products into compliance with the relevant law or policy.

There are, however, deadlines around the Buy American policy. By June 17, various government agencies were supposed to have put forward rules around how departments implement the policies. By September 15, department heads are expected to be checking and enforcing compliance to the new rules.

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

About the Author(s)

Dan Jones

Mobile Editor

Dan is to hats what Will.I.Am is to ridiculous eyewear. Fedora, trilby, tam-o-shanter -- all have graced the Jones pate during his career as the go-to purveyor of mobile essentials.

But hey, Dan is so much more than 4G maps and state-of-the-art headgear. Before joining the Light Reading team in 2002 he was an award-winning cult hit on Broadway (with four 'Toni' awards, two 'Emma' gongs and a 'Brian' to his name) with his one-man show, "Dan Sings the Show Tunes."

His perfectly crafted blogs, falling under the "Jonestown" banner, have been compared to the works of Chekhov. But only by Dan.

He lives in Brooklyn with cats.

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