US rural telecom networks need US$1.8b to remove Huawei, ZTE equipment: FCC

US rural telecom networks need US$1.8b to remove Huawei, ZTE equipment: FCC

The Huawei logo is seen at the IFA consumer technology fair, in Berlin
The Huawei logo is seen at the IFA consumer technology fair, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Berlin, Germany September 3, 2020. REUTERS/Michele Tantussi

WASHINGTON: US rural telecommunications networks, which have relied on inexpensive network equipment from China's Huawei Technologies Co and ZTE Corp, have told the government that it would cost US$1.837 billion to replace those switches and routers, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) said on Friday (Sep 4).

In June, the FCC formally designated Huawei and ZTE as threats to US national security, a declaration that bars US firms from tapping an US$8.3 billion government fund to purchase equipment from the companies.

The US telecommunications regulator voted last year to propose requiring rural carriers to remove and replace equipment from the two Chinese companies from US networks.

FCC commissioners said the report shows the need for Congress to approve funding to replace that equipment. Congress has authorised reimbursements but has not approved the money.

The FCC said it believes the carriers would be eligible for reimbursements of about US$1.62 billion.

"By identifying the presence of insecure equipment and services in our networks, we can now work to ensure that these networks — especially those of small and rural carriers — rely on infrastructure from trusted vendors," FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said, urging Congress "to appropriate funding to reimburse carriers for replacing any equipment or services determined to be a national security threat so that we can protect our networks".

The FCC identified more than 50 mostly smaller telecom companies with ZTE or Huawei equipment or using services from the companies, as well as a few larger companies like CenturyLink and Verizon Communications Inc

Verizon said its networks do not include equipment from Huawei or ZTE but has a small number of devices, called VoiceLink, made by Huawei that some customers use to make voice calls. Verizon said it expects to retire all VoiceLink devices this year.

CenturyLink said the “legacy equipment at issue cannot be used to route or redirect user traffic” and is not covered under restrictions established by Congress. The company added it has “actively been removing and replacing equipment and continue to work with federal policymakers to accelerate the process".

Source: Reuters/nc

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