The national security team of the White House administration is considering its options to counter a threat of spying by China on U.S. phone calls. One of the options is the government building a lightning-fast 5G wireless network, said one senior official in the administration on Sunday.
The official confirmed what was in a report posted by Axios.com saying the option had been debated at a lower level of the administration and it would be as long as eight more months until the president would consider it.
The concept of a 5G network has a goal of addressing what security officials see as a treat by China to the cyber security as well as economic security of the U.S.
The White House has taken a harder line on the policies former President Barack Obama initiated on different issues that ranged from Beijing’s role in restraining its neighbor North Korea to efforts by the Chinese to acquire strategic industries in the U.S.
In January, AT&T scrapped its plans to offer its subscribers handsets that were built by Huawei the China-based smartphone maker after some lawmakers on Capitol Hill spoke out against that as did regulators, said sources.
During 2012, ZTE Corp. and Huawei were subjects of an investigation by U.S. regulators into whether the equipment they made provided an opportunity for espionage by a foreign state and threatened critical infrastructure in the U.S.
Some House intelligence committee members continue to be troubled by the threats to security posed by ZTE and Huawei, one congressional aide has said.
Issues that a committee report in 2012 raised about the firms in China have not subsided said the aide, adding that newer classified intelligence has recently resurfaced the concerns.
An unnamed senior White House official said that the government wants to build a network so calls cannot be listened to by the Chinese.
The official continued by saying a secure network must be in place that does not allow for bad actors to enter. In addition, the government must make sure the Chinese are not taking over the market and putting out of business every non-5G network.
On Monday in Beijing, a spokesperson for the foreign ministry of China said that the country had prohibited all types of hacking, but the 5G security issues were not specifically addressed.
Wireless carriers in the U.S. have spent billions of U.S. dollars buying up spectrum for the launch of their 5G networks. It is not clear if the government would have sufficient spectrum to build a 5G network of its own.