The real threat to our 5G future


Government officials and industry stakeholders will gather at the White House on Thursday to promote U.S. leadership in fifth-generation wireless technology, or 5G. The focus of the event, it appears, will be the importance of staying ahead of China, which is aggressively vying for the top spot in wireless leadership.The event is designed to send the message that the Trump administration considers 5G a national priority.

But it ignores the biggest barrier for U.S. leadership: the administration’s own misguided trade policies. Indeed, the administration’s trade war with China threatens to increase the costs of wireless infrastructure by hundreds of millions of dollars at a critical moment in the race to 5G. It’s a classic case of the right hand not knowing what the left is doing.

Let me explain. Last week, the U.S. Trade Representative finalized new tariffs on an additional $200 billion of Chinese imports. Buried deep in the 200-page schedule of goods subject to the new tax are listings that include “machines for the reception, conversion and transmission or regeneration of voice, images or other data, including switching and routing apparatus.” You’ll also encounter entries for “apparatus for transmission or reception of voice, images, or other data, including apparatus for communication in a wired or wireless network.”