Cost of banning Chinese 5G gear soars to $5.6B

FCC seeks billions more to reimburse carriers for removing and replacing 5G networking equipment made by banned Chinese vendors Huawei and ZTE.

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Network providers have asked for $5.6 billion to cover the cost of replacing deployed wireless equipment made by Huawei and ZTE, whose gear has been banned from US carrier networks.

Congress had set aside $1.9 billion for the program, but a preliminary total of applications for reimbursement revealed a shortfall of $3.7 billion. FCC Chairperson Jessica Rosenworcel seeks Congress to make up whatever the actual amount turns out to be.

Wireless equipment manufactured by Huawei and ZTE have been placed on a restricted list by the Commerce Department over concern that they could be a security threat to the US.

The ban affects smaller carriers disproportionately, according to experts, since they’re much more likely to have opted for the generally lower prices offered by the Chinese vendors. The reimbursement program, which limited funding to carriers with fewer than 10 million subscribers, stopped taking applications Jan. 28.

“We’ve received over 181 applications from carriers who have developed plans to remove and replace equipment in their networks that pose a national security threat,” Rosenworcel said in a statement. “While we have more work to do to review these applications, I look forward to working with Congress to ensure that there is enough funding available for this program to advance Congress’s security goals and ensure that the US will continue to lead the way on 5G security.”

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