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US telcos request $5.6 billion to rip out Huawei, ZTE equipment

The FCC says it has received 181 applications from small carriers to access its funding

US telecommunications providers have requested $5.6 billion to cover the costs of removing, replacing, and disposing of insecure equipment and services in US networks.

The FCC ordered telecoms companies to begin removing Huawei equipment from their networks in December 2020 as part of the process of revoking China Telecom’s authorisation to operate in the US, based on concerns relating to the companies’ ties to the Chinese government. In July 2020, the FCC went on to officially declare Huawei and ZTE as threats to the US’s national security.

In October last year, the FCC launched the Secure and trusted Communications Networks Reimbursement $1.9 billion programme, created by Congress, to reimburse smaller service providers - those with less than 10 million customers - for their efforts to increase the security of the nation's communications networks

FCC chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel notified Congress on 4 February that the FCC has received over 181 applications for around $5.6 billion from carriers who have developed plans to remove and replace equipment in their networks that pose a national security threat. 

“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 programme to advance Congress’s security goals and ensure that the US will continue to lead the way on 5G security,” said Rosenworcel. 

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Companies were able to file for funding from the programme between 29 October 2021 and 28 January 2022. As it stands, Congress will have to approve around $3.7 billion more in funding if it wants to comply with the 181 applications put forward by the telecommunications providers.

Huawei and ZTE have also been prevented from receiving new equipment licenses from US regulators, as in November president Biden signed a new law to prevent companies that are seen as security threats from acquiring these licenses. The Secure Equipment Act of 2021 specifies that it applies to equipment already listed in the Secure and Trusted Networks Act of 2019, in which Huawei, ZTE, and other Chinese tech companies are named.

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