What price security? Well, for the US ban on Huawei/ZTE kit it’s around $1.8bn, and you’re going to pay most of it

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) says that performing a full replacement of all Huawei and ZTE hardware on American wireless networks will cost $1.837bn in total.

The figure was released as part of a Friday report [PDF] from the Commission into the use by carriers of gear from the two Chinese vendors, which have been banned from doing business in the US.

“It is a top priority of our nation and this Commission to promote the security of our country’s communications networks,” FCC chair Ajit Pai said.

“That’s why we sought comprehensive information from US carriers about equipment and services from untrusted vendors that have already been installed in our networks.”

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According to the FCC, the $1.837bn figure is the cost to the carriers themselves as they remove and replace their Huawei and ZTE hardware with gear from other vendors who have been approved by the government. Of that, it is estimated that around $1.618bn will be reimbursed by taxpayers, as outlined by the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act of 2019.

Shortly after the bill passed (in 2020, despite its name) the FCC began its study to gauge what it would cost for the no-Huawei, no-ZTE mandate to actually be put in place by every carrier that receives Universal Service Fund money (just about every major and regional telco in the country.) Friday’s report is the result of that months-long foray.

In order for that to happen, Congress will need to approve the $1.6bn in reimbursements, something Pai “strongly urges” for the hardware replacement to move forward.

“By identifying the presence of insecure equipment and services in our networks, we can now work to ensure that these networks—especially those of small and rural carriers—rely on infrastructure from trusted vendors,” he said.

Both Huawei and ZTE have found themselves blacklisted by the US government due to national security concerns. Officials in Washington, DC, fear that the close ties both companies have to the Chinese government might allow Beijing to covertly slip backdoors and surveillance tools into the wireless backbone gear both companies offer to telcos.

Originally banned from doing business with US government agencies, the two companies are now also excluded from providing any network backbone equipment (the stuff that goes up on towers or cell sites) to carriers as well.

Along with the announcement, the FCC has posted a list [PDF] of the carriers that will need to get rid of their Huawei and ZTE equipment and splash some of the $1.8bn estimated replacement cost.

While most of the 51 listed carriers are smaller regional providers (some of them subsidiaries of larger carriers), there are also some major telcos such as Verizon and CenturyLink who would be part of the effort. ®

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