A group of Democratic and Republican Senators is urging the Trump administration to take a more cohesive and unified approach to 5G by appointing a dedicated official to oversee the nation's use of the technology.
"We would further urge you to designate a dedicated, senior individual focused solely on coordinating and leading the nation's effort to develop and deploy future telecommunications technologies," the Senators wrote. "We believe that having a senior leader would position the United States to lead on telecommunications advancements, ensure the United States is appropriately postured against this strategic threat, and demonstrate to our allies the seriousness with which the nation considers the issue."
As noted by several publications, the Senators signing the letter include Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) and Richard Burr (R-N.C.), vice chairman and chairman, respectively, of the Senate's Intelligence Committee; Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Gary Peters (D-Mich.), chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee; and others. The letter was addressed to Robert O' Brien, assistant to the president for national security affairs, and Lawrence Kudlow, director of the National Economic Council. Kudlow has often represented the Trump administration on 5G issues.
"While the United States has led in the development and deployment of previous telecommunications evolutions, 5G represents the first evolutionary step for which an authoritarian nation leads the marketplace for telecommunications solutions. China's leadership, combined with the United States' increased reliance on high-speed, reliable telecommunications services to facilitate both commerce and defense, poses a strategic risk for the country," the Senators wrote. "Without a national strategy, facilitated by a common understanding of the geopolitical and technical impact of 5G and future telecommunications advancements, we expect each agency will continue to operate within its own mandate, rather than identifying national authority and policy deficiencies that do not neatly fall into a single department or agency. This fractured approach will not be sufficient to rise to the challenge the country faces."
The letter essentially represents a reaction to a number of dramatic upheavals in the telecommunications industry over the past year -- commotion overshadowed and likely advanced by the ongoing trade war between the US and China. Huawei, the world's largest wireless networking equipment supplier, sits at the center of the geopolitical 5G debate, with the US government moving to block the company entirely from not only the US market but also international markets, and now looking to eradicate its existing equipment from existing US networks.
And though a number of government agencies have been working on various 5G topics, from the Commerce Department to the FCC to the Department of Defense, there remains no real official oversight on 5G specifically outside of a presidential memorandum last year essentially calling for an inventory of spectrum for 5G.
While US policymakers debate the topic, China is embarking on what will unarguably be the world's largest 5G deployment to date; indeed, the country already counts more than 10 million people who pre-registered to receive 5G service.
Moreover, China's Huawei claims a leading position in terms of 5G patents and technological contributions to the standard, according to German patent analysis company IPlytics. In the firm's new November figures, Huawei leads the world in terms of the number of "declared 5G families" of patents, with 3,325. Samsung (2,846), LG (2,463) and Nokia (2,308) come in after.
The firm also said Huawei leads in terms of "technical contributions" for 5G standards, with 19,473. Ericsson (15,072), Nokia (11,555) and Qualcomm (5,994) follow.