White House and FCC plan 5G summits

The director of the National Economic Council Larry Kudlow says the Trump White House will hold a 5G summit probably “sometime in early April,” according to an interview on Fox Business. Kudlow said it would be attended by the big carriers AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile as well as “a big Japanese carrier that is paving the way for a software-driven solution for 5G.”

Presumably, Kudlow was referring to Japan’s Rakuten Mobile, which is building a greenfield 4G network that can be easily converted to 5G.

RELATED: Rakuten Mobile tees up 5G OpenRAN trial in Singapore

In addition to the carriers, Kudlow said American companies including Intel, Cisco, Qualcomm as well as “some smaller American startups” would also attend the summit.

The National Economic Council was created in 1993 to advise the president on domestic and global economic policy. It is part of the Executive Office of the President. Other than the details Kudlow provided on Fox Business, neither the council nor the White House have provided other any specifics about this summit.

FCC 5G Summit

Meanwhile, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has announced it is holding a forum on 5G virtualized radio access networks on March 26. The FCC says it will bring together experts who are at the forefront of the development and deployment of interoperable, standards-based, virtualized RAN work.

“The FCC has taken aggressive action to promote American leadership in 5G—a major priority for the agency and the administration generally,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai in a statement. “One way to advance this priority is through the development and deployment of more secure, cost-effective 5G network components. Virtualized radio access networks could help us do that, as I’ve heard here in the United States and discussed with stakeholders abroad.”

Speaking at the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this year, Pai said he’s visited with executives from Japan’s Rakuten.

Mixing politics and tech

Most of the current political interest in the technology of 5G networks stems from the United States’ ongoing war against Huawei. Politicians on both sides of the aisle think that Chinese telecom equipment poses a security risk. And their concerns about Huawei and ZTE happen to coincide with the rollout of 5G, which is putting politics squarely in the middle of what’s usually a technology deployment left mostly to engineers.

RELATED: Britain hedges on Huawei, US senators suggest O-RAN as option

In January a bipartisan group of U.S. senators introduced legislation that would provide over $1 billion to invest in Western-based alternatives to Chinese vendors Huawei and ZTE. In their announcement the senators said, “U.S. efforts to convince foreign partners to ban Huawei from their networks have stalled amid concerns about a lack of viable, affordable alternatives.”

Commentary about the U.S.’s deployment of 5G is coming from multiple quarters. But as Politico points out “the agency most closely charged with overseeing 5G—the National Telecommunications and Information Administration—hasn’t had a leader for months, with no director even nominated.”