Getting real about Huawei

Getting real about Huawei
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It is time that we collectively had a reality check on Huawei, 5G, and the security of American telecommunications infrastructure. Huawei is, for all intents and purposes, an extension of Chinese intelligence. Its goals and aims may appear to be outwardly commercial, but its actions tell a very different story. Earlier this year, federal prosecutors unveiled a series of criminal charges ranging from sanctions violations to intellectual property theft perpetrated by Huawei. The United States is not alone in its concern about this threat. Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom have taken actions to restrict Huawei and ZTE from their telecommunications networks. Several others are also reportedly considering similar actions.

The federal government has known about this threat for some time. In 2012, I along with my colleagues on the House Intelligence Committee, issued a bipartisan report warning about the major national security threat posed by Huawei and ZTE. The good news here is that the concerns we had raised, which were highly provocative then, are now the view of a bipartisan consensus of national security policymakers in Washington.

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That is why it is concerning to see some in the public square hold up China and Huawei as examples of the way countries and companies should innovate. How did China and Huawei become so advanced in the telecommunications race? They did it through intellectual property theft, both state and corporate espionage, cyberwarfare, endless lines of credit from government banks, and forcing companies to hand over critical information like source code to do business. To say that Chinese central planners are innovators is a disservice to those Western companies that have had their intellectual property stolen and their products undercut.

Most policymakers in Washington agree that a key to the United States maintaining its economic and security advantage internationally is to win the race to 5G. Emulating the Chinese model by nationalizing 5G here in the United States is exactly the wrong way to do this. Believing that the government could plan, cite, organize, manage, and operate a complex network like 5G somehow better and faster than the private sector is putting far more faith in government than conservatives are typically willing. Nationalization of 5G would delay the process of deploying this game changing network in our country. It would not be any faster, more secure, or more efficient. We have seen local governments try to manage broadband networks on a small scale. Those efforts have not ended well.

However, the federal government can and should do more to bring 5G to market in the United States. Actions taken by the Federal Communications Commission to eliminate industry barriers to small cell placement and the Commerce Department to make more spectrum available for commercial use are important efforts worth highlighting. Yet, there is more to be done. Predictable, timely, and efficient allocation of the spectrum necessary to create a robust 5G network must be a top priority for our policymakers.

Every United States carrier has conducted trials and begun deployments in initial cities for 5G. All four major United States carriers announced plans to provide 5G services by later this year, while almost half of the mobile subscriptions in North America will be 5G by 2023, according to the latest reports. The United States won the 4G race, and we will win the 5G race by unleashing the innovative spirit of the American private sector, not by Washington bureaucrats picking the industry winners and losers.

As for security, the commercial 5G networks will have unprecedented security. The 5G standard is the first mobile network to have security built in from the ground up as part of the standards process. Further, several innovations in network design and wireless technology will intersect to create a highly secure and resilient 5G network. We will have more agile layered security as we transition from centralized core and radio access networks to distributed virtual networks. Simply put, 5G will enable the most secure wireless network infrastructure we have deployed to date.

If we rely on the same free market principles that made the United States the economic marvel of the world, while focusing on building the very next generation networks that will propel future advanced technologies, we can retain our economic and security edge. However, if we turn those time tested and uniquely American principles on their heads, it may well be the Chinese Communist Party leadership in Beijing leading the way.

Mike Rogers represented the 8th District of Michigan in Congress. He served as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and is a CNN national security commentator. Follow him on Twitter @RepMikeRogers.