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July 15, 2021
The FCC's "rip and replace" program is scheduled to officially get underway later this year. The program promises to allocate almost $2 billion in Congressional funding to US network operators so they can replace equipment from Chinese vendors Huawei and ZTE with gear from "trusted" suppliers.
The program – which has been taking shape for years – raises one minor but interesting question: Exactly what are US operators going to do with the millions of dollars worth of Huawei and ZTE equipment they're planning to rip out?
A possible answer lies in a new FCC filing on the topic. They're going to hammer in the morning and hammer in the evening, all over this land:
Figure 1: (Source: Teltech)
They also might destroy it with a big drill:
Figure 2: (Source: Teltech)
And if that doesn't work, they might just saw it in half:
Figure 3: (Source: Teltech)
The physical, logistical details of the FCC's "rip and replace" program were discussed in a filing to the agency made by the Rural Wireless Association (RWA) and Teltech Group. The RWA represents many of the smaller wireless network operators that purchased equipment from Huawei and ZTE and that are now planning to get rid of that equipment. Teltech Group is a longtime network logistics provider that offers services ranging from asset tracking to cell tower construction.
Teltech was the company that spent around two years removing and destroying around 4,200 Huawei-supplied WiMAX cell sites that Sprint acquired when it purchased Clearwire back in 2013. (Clearwire built a WiMAX network – shuttered in 2016 – with the 2.5GHz spectrum that T-Mobile is now using for its "ultra capacity" 5G network.)
So Teltech has some experience in the matter. And in a meeting with FCC officials last week, RWA and Teltech showed a video describing exactly how the vendor might handle all the Huawei and ZTE equipment the agency wants to rip out of wireless networks around the country.
"Teltech Group also provided details about its removal and destruction process that can be tracked by location, serial numbers and a multitude of granular levels," the company told the FCC. "Teltech explained that it has been in the asset management business for over 20 years and developed its TAM 2.0 software specifically to manage and visualize an end-to-end returns process for its customers and joined RWA so that it could assist rural carriers with the FCC’s Reimbursement Program."
The company explained that it manages a network of technicians and warehouses around the country that can collect and transport equipment destined for destruction. That process involves technicians disassembling the equipment into pieces that can be recycled or destroyed. And Teltech added that it works with a number of recycling and waste vendors in order to prevent environmentally harmful electronics components from reaching US landfills.
The fact that US taxpayers are ultimately going to pay for technicians to smash Huawei and ZTE equipment with hammers stems from the years-long deterioration in US-China relations.
China-based Huawei is the world's largest supplier of wireless networking equipment and it has been locked out of the US market over fears that the company's equipment can be used for espionage. Huawei officials vehemently disagree with that allegation, but US opposition to the company and some other Chinese vendors hardened during the Trump administration into an outright ban on US business with Huawei.
An outgrowth of that opposition ultimately resulted in the FCC's "rip and replace" program, which is designed to remove equipment from US networks that's been deemed a threat to national security.
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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