White House schedules 5G meeting for Friday, but details remain vague

The White House has scheduled a meeting Friday between members of the Trump administration and wireless industry executives to discuss 5G network technology.

However, details of the meetingincluding whether it’s simply an educational event or if the administration is planning to discuss new policy initiativesremain unclear.

Nonetheless, the event is noteworthy considering that, at least so far, the Trump administration hasn’t engaged directly very often with the wireless industry on issues related to wireless networks or 5G. One of President Trump’s only public meetings with wireless executives happened more than a year ago, when executives ranging from AT&T’s Randall Stephenson to Sprint’s Marcelo Claure visited the White House in part to discuss ways to speed up the deployment of network infrastructure including small cells.

Earlier this year, though, 5G rushed into the Beltway’s limelight after an article in Axios detailed a proposal by a senior National Security Council official to have the federal government build and operate a nationwide 5G network within the next three years. The 30-page proposal, published in Axios, argued that the United States is losing in the 5G arena to China, and that “networks are the dominant competition space.”

However, the FCC voiced opposition to the action and the administration backed away from the proposal, which was never publicly released. (Though the FCC has worked on a number of other issues related to 5G, including small cell deployments and spectrum.)

Further, President Trump argued in March that ensuring the United States’ leadership in 5G was a critical part of his decision to issue a presidential order preventing Broadcom from engaging in a hostile takeover of Qualcomm.

There remain a wide range of issues that the Trump administration and the wireless industry could cover during the meeting, including how 5G technology might affect the wider economy. CTIA, for its part, has sponsored research that found the technology could create up to 3 million new jobs.

The meeting may also cover President Trump’s tariffs on Chinese products, which expanded to an additional $200 billion worth of goods this week, and how those actions could affect the electronics that will be required for any 5G rollout.

And if tariffs are covered, the meeting may even trod into the question of national security and Huawei. The Chinese vendor has grown into one of the world’s largest suppliers of wireless networking equipment and smartphones, though it has been effectively blocked from the U.S. market in both areas due to concerns the company poses a threat to national security. Huawei, for its part, has been vociferously arguing against actions that would bar it from selling network equipment to the nation’s smaller wireless operators that are among its customers.