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Friday, May 7th, 2021

Senators urge Biden administration to fund secure 5G networks

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U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Mark Warner (D-VA) joined a group of bipartisan Congress members to urge President Joe Biden to request at least $3 billion to fund the adoption of 5G alternatives to Chinese-made equipment.

In a letter to the Biden Administration on Monday, the Congress members asked Biden to request at least $1.5 billion for two funds established by Congress – the Public Wireless Supply Chain Innovation Fund and the Multilateral Telecommunications Security Fund – which would encourage the adoption of Open Radio Access Network (Open RAN) equipment, which would create a way for vendors to enter the 5G market and compete with companies like Huawei.

“Current RAN infrastructure relies on closed, end-to-end hardware solutions that are expensive to operate and dominated by foreign companies. For example, Huawei, a company with inextricable links to the Chinese government and a history of disregard for the intellectual property rights of U.S. companies, offers end-to-end RAN hardware, which poses significant counterintelligence concerns. For years, we have called on telecommunications providers in the U.S., as well as our allies and partners, to reject Huawei 5G technology, but we have not provided competitively-priced, innovative alternatives that would address their needs,” the senators wrote.

The two funds were established in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 and are consistent with Biden’s Interim National Security Strategic Guidance calling for investments to retain the U.S.’s scientific and technological edge, to build secure 21st-century digital infrastructure, and to partner with democratic friends and allies.

“As wireless networks adapt to the growing demands for 5G connectivity, a new Open RAN architecture will allow telecommunications providers to migrate from the current hardware-centric approach into a software-centric model that relies heavily on cloud-based services,” the senators wrote. “This architecture will break down the current end-to-end proprietary stack of hardware; lower barriers to entry and prompt innovation; diversify the supply chain and decrease dependence on foreign suppliers; and spur Open RAN deployments throughout the United States, particularly in rural America. Providing resources for these Funds in your budget request presents an opportunity to realize this vision.”

Current RAN technology is expensive and dominated by foreign companies like Huawei, a company with ties to the Chinese government and a history of disregard for the intellectual property rights of U.S. companies.

The letter was also signed by Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Richard Burr (R-NC), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Susan Collins (R-ME), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Angus King (I-ME), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Michael Bennet (D-CO), John Cornyn (R-TX), Bob Casey (D-PA), Ben Sasse (R-NE), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).