FCC approves some Huawei rip and replace extensions, sends letter to Congress

In letters to several U.S. Senators and Representatives this week, Jessica Rosenworcel, chairwoman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), said the FCC has received 122 reimbursement claim requests from companies that are ripping out their Huawei and ZTE equipment.

The 122 requests came from a pool of 126 applications that were approved for the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Reimbursement Program. Rosenworcel said the FCC has approved distributions of reimbursement funds for 112 of the requests. The recipients have one-year deadlines from the time of their initial receipt of funds to remove all Huawei and ZTE communications equipment and services from their networks.


Rosenworcel also said the FCC received several requests for six-month extensions to the one-year deadlines. 

“The law permits the Commission to provide such six-month extensions if they are ‘due to no fault of such recipient,’” she wrote. “On October 10, 2023, the Wireline Competition Bureau granted several of these extensions for a period of six months.”

The FCC granted the extensions because currently, the Reimbursement Program is not fully funded. Congress appropriated $1.9 billion to rip and replace Huawei and ZTE equipment. But after the FCC approved the applications for reimbursement funds, the grand total sought equaled approximately $4.98 billion, reflecting a $3.08 billion shortfall.

Therefore, the FCC was required to prorate funds, providing 39.5% of reasonable costs.

The recipients requesting extensions claim they are unable to timely complete their rip and replace projects without full funding. It’s expensive to remove the Chinese equipment, replace it with new technology and appropriately dispose of the old gear.

Tim Donovan, CEO of the Competitive Carriers Association (CCA), told Fierce Wireless, “I do not think these extension requests are going to be the end of them.” 

Donovan said recipients have been approved for their full replacement costs, but they currently will only receive 39.5% of those costs.

He said all of CCA operator members who have Huawei or ZTE equipment in their networks are working through the Reimbursement Program process. “There’s not really another way forward. You can’t repair, upgrade or buy spare parts,” said Donovan, referring to the old equipment in the networks.

And he also noted that extensions don’t take away the urgency to fully fund the Reimbursement Program. “The delays are needed, but the delay itself is not sufficient to get this done. If you need to purchase equipment, additional time doesn’t help.”