President Donald Trump will reportedly ban Chinese telecommunications equipment from mobile networks in the U.S., through an executive order that could appear as early as next week.
The move, reported Thursday by Politico, would see the U.S. doing what it’s been pressuring its allies to do: shut Huawei, the world’s biggest telecoms equipment manufacturer, out of new networks that will support the upcoming “fifth generation” (5G) of mobile connectivity. ZTE would also be affected.
Australia, New Zealand and Japan have already effectively excluded Huawei from their 5G rollouts, and countries including Canada have been considering following suit. Thailand, meanwhile, bucked the trend on Friday by launching a test of Huawei’s 5G equipment. And German media reports that that country’s government is also not keen to implement a full ban.
According to the Politico piece, Trump will sign the executive order before Mobile World Congress, the big industry show that takes place in Barcelona at the end of this month. An unnamed source “close to the administration” told the publication: “Contracts are going out now…Extra stigma could change the situation out in the countries on this major decision.”
If Trump does go ahead with this order on this schedule, it will probably further inflame the trade tensions between the U.S. and China, shortly before a “ceasefire” in the countries’ trade war comes to an end.
The U.S. already has a ban on Huawei or ZTE equipment being used by federal agencies and recipients of federal funding. It also recently hit Huawei and its chief financial officer with charges of bank fraud, obstruction of justice and intellectual property theft.
Many intelligence agencies suspect Huawei’s equipment could be used as an espionage conduit for Chinese spies—though there’s no clear evidence that this has happened, and Huawei denies the possibility.
The issue with shunning Huawei’s equipment is that it’s relatively cheap, so mobile carriers would probably find their 5G buildouts getting more expensive.