Trump security team sees building US 5G network as option

WASHINGTON, Jan 28 (Reuters) - President Donald Trump's national security team is looking at options to counter the threat of China spying on U.S. phone calls that include the government building a super-fast 5G wireless network, a senior administration official said on Sunday.

The official, confirming the gist of a report from Axios.com, said the option was being debated at a low level in the administration and was six to eight months away from being considered by the president himself.

The 5G network concept is aimed at addressing what officials see as China's threat to U.S. cyber security and economic security.

The Trump administration has taken a harder line on policies initiated by predecessor Barack Obama on issues ranging from Beijing's role in restraining North Korea to Chinese efforts to acquire U.S. strategic industries.

This month AT&T was forced to scrap a plan to offer its customers handsets built by China's Huawei after some members of Congress lobbied against the idea with federal regulators, sources told Reuters.

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President Trump delivers remarks on the national security strategy
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a national security strategy speech at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, Dec. 18, 2017. The national security strategy, a document mandated by Congress, will describe the Trump administration's approach to a range of global challenges including North Korea's nuclear program, international terrorism, Russian aggression and China's rising influence. Photographer: Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool via Bloomberg
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a national security strategy speech at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, Dec. 18, 2017. The national security strategy, a document mandated by Congress, will describe the Trump administration's approach to a range of global challenges including North Korea's nuclear program, international terrorism, Russian aggression and China's rising influence. Photographer: Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool via Bloomberg
U.S. President Donald Trump pauses while speaking during a national security strategy speech at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, Dec. 18, 2017. The national security strategy, a document mandated by Congress, will describe the Trump administration's approach to a range of global challenges including North Korea's nuclear program, international terrorism, Russian aggression and China's rising influence. Photographer: Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool via Bloomberg
Ben Carson, U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, center, speaks with attendees before a national security strategy speech by U.S. President Donald Trump, not pictured, at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, Dec. 18, 2017. The national security strategy, a document mandated by Congress, will describe the Trump administration's approach to a range of global challenges including North Korea's nuclear program, international terrorism, Russian aggression and China's rising influence. Photographer: Zach Gibson/Bloomberg via Getty Images
U.S. President Donald Trump waves after speaking during a national security strategy speech at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, Dec. 18, 2017. The national security strategy, a document mandated by Congress, will describe the Trump administration's approach to a range of global challenges including North Korea's nuclear program, international terrorism, Russian aggression and China's rising influence. Photographer: Zach Gibson/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Jared Kushner, senior White House adviser, arrives before a national security strategy speech by U.S. President Donald Trump, not pictured, at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, Dec. 18, 2017. The national security strategy, a document mandated by Congress, will describe the Trump administration's approach to a range of global challenges including North Korea's nuclear program, international terrorism, Russian aggression and China's rising influence. Photographer: Zach Gibson/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Scott Pruitt, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, center, speaks with attendees before a national security strategy speech by U.S. President Donald Trump, not pictured, at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, Dec. 18, 2017. The national security strategy, a document mandated by Congress, will describe the Trump administration's approach to a range of global challenges including North Korea's nuclear program, international terrorism, Russian aggression and China's rising influence. Photographer: Zach Gibson/Bloomberg via Getty Images
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence speaks during a national security strategy speech at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, Dec. 18, 2017. The national security strategy, a document mandated by Congress, will describe the Trump administration's approach to a range of global challenges including North Korea's nuclear program, international terrorism, Russian aggression and China's rising influence. Photographer: Zach Gibson/Bloomberg via Getty Images
White House senior advisor Jared Kushner (C) chats with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (L) and Senator John Cornyn (R) as he arrives for a speech by US President Donald Trump at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, DC on December 18, 2017. President Donald Trump rolled out his first 'National Security Strategy', a combative document designed to put meat on the bones of his 'America First' sloganeering. / AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Members of the military and national security staffs attend a speech by US President Donald Trump about his administration's National Security Strategy at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, DC, December 18, 2017. President Donald Trump rolled out his first 'National Security Strategy', a combative document designed to put meat on the bones of his 'America First' sloganeering. / AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 18: U.S. President Donald Trump is introduced before delivering a speech at the Ronald Reagan Building December 18, 2017 in Washington, DC. The president was expected to outline a new strategy for U.S. foreign policy through the release of the periodic National Security Strategy, a document that aims to outline major national security concerns and the administration's plans to deal with them. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 18: U.S. President Donald Trump walks off the stage after delivering a speech at the Ronald Reagan Building December 18, 2017 in Washington, DC. The president was expected to outline a new strategy for U.S. foreign policy through the release of the periodic National Security Strategy, a document that aims to outline major national security concerns and the administration's plans to deal with them. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
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In 2012, Huawei and ZTE Corp were the subject of a U.S. investigation into whether their equipment provided an opportunity for foreign espionage and threatened critical U.S. infrastructure.

Some members of the House intelligence committee remain troubled by security threats posed by Huawei and ZTE, according to a congressional aide.

Issues raised in a 2012 committee report about the Chinese firms have "never subsided," the aide said, adding that there was newer classified intelligence that recently resurfaced those concerns.

"We want to build a network so the Chinese can't listen to your calls," the senior official told Reuters.

"We have to have a secure network that doesn't allow bad actors to get in. We also have to ensure the Chinese don't take over the market and put every non-5G network out of business."

In Beijing on Monday, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China prohibited all forms of hacking, but did not specifically address the 5G network security issue.

"We believe that the international community should, on the basis of mutual respect and trust, strengthen dialog and cooperation and join hands in addressing the threat of cyber attacks," Hua told a regular news briefing.

Major wireless carriers have spent billions of dollars buying spectrum to launch 5G networks, and it is unclear if the U.S. government would have enough spectrum to build its own 5G network.

Furthermore, Accenture has estimated that wireless operators will invest as much as $275 billion in the United States over seven years as they build out 5G.

Last year, T-Mobile US Inc spent $8 billion and Dish Network Corp $6.2 billion to win the bulk of broadcast airwaves spectrum for sale in a government auction.

An AT&T spokesman said they could not comment on something they have not seen, and added, "Thanks to multi-billion dollar investments made by American companies, the work to launch 5G service in the United States is already well down the road."

Later this year, AT&T is set to be the first to launch mobile 5G service in 12 U.S. locations, the spokesman said.

A Verizon spokesman declined to comment. Representatives for Sprint and T-Mobile did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Another option includes having a 5G network built by a consortium of wireless carriers, the U.S. official said.

"We want to build a secure 5G network and we have to work with industry to figure out the best way to do it," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Axios published documents it said were from a presentation from a National Security Council official. If the government built the network, it would rent access to carriers, Axios said.

A looming concern laid out in the presentation was China's growing presence in the manufacture and operation of wireless networks. A concerted government push could help the U.S. compete on that front, according to the presentation.

A 5G network is expected to offer significantly faster speeds, more capacity and shorter response times, which could be utilized for new technologies ranging from self-driving cars to remote surgeries. Telecom companies and their suppliers consider it to be a multibillion-dollar revenue opportunity. (Reporting by Steve Holland and Pete Schroeder; Additional reporting by Duston Volz, Suzanne Barlyn and David Shepardson, and Michael Martina in Beijing; Editing by Chris Sanders, Peter Cooney and Clarence Fernandez)

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