Security officials in the Trump administration are reportedly thinking about building a national, centralized 5G wireless network within the next several years. If that should happen, it would be an unprecedented move and sure to spark a debate, both within the White House and across the nation. The reason, however, is that some security officials feel a centralized 5G wireless network would guard against threats from China.
Knowledge of the proposed plan hit the web after Axios claims to have obtained government documents on the subject, including a PowerPoint presentation and memo. According to those supposed documents, there are two ways the Trump administration might be able to pay for the infrastructure.
The first option has the government paying for and building a single 5G network all on its own, without any outside investment. It's an interesting proposal, considering that existing wireless networks are private infrastructures.
An alternative plan would have private wireless providers build out their own 5G networks that compete with one another. The downside to this approach, the documents say, is that it could take longer. It would also cost more than having the government build the network, which seems a dubious claim to us.
The advantage of tasking wireless carriers with building out their 5G networks is that it would cause "less commercial disruption" to the wireless industry at large, versus having the government do it. However, a source told Axios that the second option is not being weighed very seriously, as a single centralized network is what's really necessary to protect America against spying threats from China and other countries.
If the government did take this on, it would be interesting to see if it did it alone, or included wireless carriers as part of a consortium on the project. In fact, that is a point of debate in the Trump administration as this idea gets kicked around.
The documents also suggest a sense of urgency in getting this done. A section of the PowerPoint presentation says the U.S. must build a fast 5G network quickly because "China has achieved a dominant position in the manufacture and operation of network infrastructure," adding that "China is the dominant malicious actor in the Information Domain."