By Todd Shields, Jennifer A. Dlouhy, and Bloomberg
February 21, 2019

President Donald Trump challenged U.S. telecommunications companies on Thursday to boost their efforts to build advanced networks and said leadership should come from competition, not by blocking competitors.

“American companies must step up their efforts, or get left behind,” Trump tweeted. “There is no reason that we should be lagging behind on something that is so obviously the future.”

The worldwide mobile industry is racing to deploy advanced 5G networks that promise faster connections, allowing uses such as autonomous vehicles and remote surgery. China has a narrow lead over the U.S. and South Korea, according to research commissioned by CTIA, a Washington-based trade group for mobile carriers.

“I want the United States to win through competition, not by blocking out currently more advanced technologies,” Trump said in morning tweets.

Shenzhen-based Huawei Technologies Co. is pushing to take a global leadership position in 5G, but many American officials suspect the company’s products could be used by Beijing to spy on Western governments and companies.

The Trump administration is pressuring allies to keep Huawei gear out of their telecommunications networks, and Congress barred government agencies from buying the provider’s gear.

The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for more information.

Trump’s tweets came just a few hours after the Fox Business Network aired an interview of Michael Pompeo, in which host Maria Bartiromo pressed the secretary of State on whether the administration wants to restrict the use of equipment from Huawei.

“They are creating a real risk for these countries and their systems — the security of their people,” Pompeo told Bartiromo. “Europeans care deeply about their privacy. The risk to privacy from this technology is very, very real, and we’re out sharing this information.”

The Trump administration is said to be preparing an executive order that could significantly restrict Chinese state-owned telecom companies such as Huawei from operating in the U.S. over national security concerns.

CTIA, the trade group, represents companies including AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc.

“We share the president’s commitment to leading the world in next-generation 5G wireless,” CTIA said in an emailed statement Thursday. “With the administration’s continued backing, the U.S. wireless industry can bring more robust 5G networks to more communities faster.”

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