Hardware from Huawei and ZTE is used by US telecommunications companies around the country. But in the coming months, this will change.
Recently, the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) officially launched a reimbursement program for the replacement of equipment from two companies Chinese considered a threat to US security.
According to Bloomberg, telecommunications companies have begun to calculate the cost of getting rid of Chinese equipment. John Nettles, president of Pine Belt Communications, said companies are required to complete this within a year of receiving their first reimbursement.
Without subsidies, small rural telecommunications companies, serving fewer than 10 million customers, would not be able to comply with government orders. But thanks to this money, they will hire manpower and have enough replacement equipment to complete the task set by the FCC ahead of time. Nettles estimates it takes a team of four to work a week to overhaul each of the company’s 67 towers.
Removing equipment is Huawei and ZTE also not easy. John Nettles said there will be industrial-scale crushers responsible for destroying these devices. They then had to wait for replacement equipment from Ericsson or Nokia Oyj and were unable to immediately cut off US customers’ access to websites and mobile networks.
As semiconductor shortages disrupted the supply chain, Nettles worried that his company and rural US carriers would not be able to remove and replace equipment smoothly, within the expected budget. The FCC has given carriers until mid-January to file claims and expects to complete allotment of the funds next spring. But if telecom carriers don’t get enough subsidies, they’ll be in a tough spot.
Nettles estimates the equipment replacement will cost about $25 million. If Pine Belt Communications gets less money, he could have to shut down a fifth of his telecommunications network or find funding elsewhere.