FCC gets $5.6 billion in requests to access $1.9 billion pot for ripping out Huawei and ZTE


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The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) said on Friday it has seen a “robust” response to its Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Reimbursement Program.

Under the program, carriers that have under 10 million customers as well as some schools, libraries, and healthcare providers are able to access funds to rip out and replace network equipment and services from Huawei and ZTE, if they provide broadband services. For the purpose of the program, equipment would need to be capable of speeds above 200kbps in either direction.

The fund was established with a pot of $1.9 billion, but the FCC has received requests amounting to $5.6 billion.

“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,” FCC chair Jessica Rosenworcel told Congress.

“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.”

Previously, the FCC said in those cases regarding older networks, replacing like-for-like may not be possible, and instances such as ripping out an older mobile network to be replaced by LTE or 5G-ready equipment would be allowed. Those receiving the funds will not be able to replace microwave backhaul or fixed wireless links with fibre links, however.

Additionally, applicants would be able to claim vendor travel expenses and salary costs of internal employees dedicated purely to the replacement program.

The fund was first proposed in 2019, with the FCC officially designating Huawei and ZTE as national security threats in July 2020.

Last month, the FCC removed the ability for China Unicom to operate in the US for national security reasons.

“[China Unicom] is subject to exploitation, influence, and control by the Chinese government and is highly likely to be forced to comply with Chinese government requests without sufficient legal procedures subject to independent judicial oversight,” the commission said.

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