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Wireless carriers to meet with White House officials to discuss 5G

All four of the nation’s biggest wireless carriers will attend a meeting at the White House on Friday to talk about 5G.

AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint each confirmed their attendance at the meeting, but declined to say who would represent their companies. Verizon declined to comment, but a source with knowledge of the meeting confirmed that the company will send an executive.

The White House didn’t return calls or emails requesting comment.

News of the meeting was reported earlier this week by Fierce Wireless.   

Specifics about the meeting are still unclear, other than the Trump administration is looking to better understand what 5G is and the potential uses for the technology. The fifth generation of cellular technology, or 5G, is seen as a potential game-changer because of its heightened speed, responsiveness and ability to handle a myriad of connected devices. Beyond giving you a much faster connection on your phone, 5G could serve as the communications foundation for emerging technologies, such as streaming virtual reality experiences.

This isn’t the first time the Trump administration has shown some interest in 5G. In March, President Donald Trump issued an executive order blocking a proposed corporate merger between mobile chip makers Broadcom and Qualcomm, citing national security concerns.

‘There is credible evidence that leads me to believe that Broadcom … might take action that threatens to impair the national security of the United States,’ Trump wrote in the executive order.

Trump officials vow 'America first, 5G first' | FierceWireless

There had also been talk earlier this year that the Trump administration was considering a plan to build a nationalized 5G network to counter Chinese threats to US economic and internet security, according to the news site Axios.  The notion, which had reportedly only been discussed at a low level within the administration, was criticized by Trump’s own Federal Communications Commission. The administration then backed away from the idea.  

There are a number of things the Trump administration may wish to discuss Friday, such as how 5G could contribute to the economy. CTIA, the wireless industry’s lobby group, has cited research showing the next evolution in wireless could generate up to 3 million new jobs.

The meeting may also cover Trump’s proposed tariffs on Chinese products, which several technology companies have said could significantly raise the costs of building these networks. Companies such as Intel, Cisco Systems and Dell Technologies have told US Trade Representative officials that the $200 billion in tariffs on goods entering the US from China would slow down the economy and cause the US to fall behind competitors in China, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The idea of how tariffs could affect 5G deployments is an issue that FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, the only Democrat on the commission, brought up during the agency’s open meeting Wednesday.

She chastised her Republican colleagues for remaining ‘eerily silent when it comes to the consequences of new national tariffs on network deployment.’ She noted that the escalating trade war with China could put ‘a 25 percent duty on antennas, switches, and routers—the essential network facilities needed for 5G deployment. That’s a real cost and there is no doubt it will diminish our ability to lead the world in the deployment of 5G.’

Rosenworcel is the only FCC commissioner who wasn’t invited to the White House meeting.

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