US Clean Network Program and Recognized SoftBank as 5G Clean Telco

The Trump administration has convened a comprehensive program to select and determine trustworthy companies for the next generation networks and technologies in the United States (US), which is briefly known as the “Clean Network Program.” On April 29, 2020, US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo announced that the US Department of State would examine all 5G networks entering the US diplomatic facilities and issue a certificate of recognition for those companies that pass so-called, Clear Path.

Under the program, several 5G technology and equipment suppliers had been approved by the US government so far and on Thursday, August 20, 2020, a leading Japanese wireless carrier, SoftBank Corp. (SoftBank) was also included in the US list of trustworthiness category for 5G platform. However, the Dept. has listed two Chinese telco giants namely Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd. (Huawei), and ZTE Corp. (ZTE) to be untrusted IT vendors for the service for next-generation networks.

US Clean 5G Program and Exclusion of Chinese Vendors

On August 5, 2020, Pompeo announced the expansion of the Clean Network program with a view to curb the external intrusion of citizens’ privacy and protect sensitive information of companies while using 5G technologies. The Trump administration had included Huawei in May 2019 in the US economic blacklist as the company was suspected of sharing its confidential data of the users to the Chinese government, which helped for spying other countries. This Monday, the US commerce department banned the Chinese tech giant from the access to chips and other components even from the suppliers that are using US technology or associated with US companies.

The US State Department says, “The 5G Clean Network addresses the long-term threat to data privacy, security, human rights, and principled collaboration posed to the free world from authoritarian malign actors.” It also explains that “clean” signifies “the highest standards of security against untrusted vendor” by adding that, the program aims to ensure protecting sensitive information “from aggressive intrusions by malign actors, such as the Chinese Communist Party”.

SoftBank as a 5G Clean Telco and Other Alternatives

SoftBank appreciated the move after the US State Dept. granted the “clean” status to the company for the service of 5G technologies and promised to fully cooperate with the Clean Network program of the US government. After the latest decision of the US, the conglomerate group has assured to “build out 5G Clean Networks that use secure equipment from trusted network vendors,” and added that the company commits to providing a secure service to all customers.

The group said in a statement on Thursday, “telecommunication networks are an important part of social infrastructure, and that they will play a crucial role in transforming people’s lives and industry in the 5G era.” Besides SoftBank, the US Dept. has recognized some of the largest telecom companies around the globe as “Clean Telcos,” namely Orange in France, Jio in India, Telstra in Australia, SK and KT in South Korea, NTT in Japan, and O2 in the United Kingdom.

Along the US pressure to push away the Chinese giants from the global market, several countries have started adopting alternatives for their 5G platforms. Many European countries including the Czech Republic, Poland, Sweden, Estonia, Romania, Denmark, Latvia, and Greece are considering using Ericsson rather than Huawei to develop their 5G infrastructure. Besides that, several telecom companies in Canada are in talks to partner with Ericsson, Nokia, and Samsung, instead of Huawei to build the next-generation network in the country.