US Telecoms Are Going To Start Physically Removing Huawei Gear

All over the country, hardware from Huawei and ZTE keeps American telecom networks humming. In the coming months, many of those networks are going to start ripping it all out. From a report: On Friday, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission officially kicked off the reimbursement program for replacing equipment from the two Chinese companies, both of which have been deemed a threat to national security. That means that telecoms can apply for subsidies to purge the hardware from their networks. A lot has been made of the geopolitical connotations of the technology blacklist, which includes Huawei and ZTE, but the physical logistics of overhauling the nation’s connectivity infrastructure is just as complicated given how much banned equipment is currently in the wild.

The process that started last week allows telecoms to file expenses for wiping out the hardware. Whenever those funds are approved and sent, “the clock starts ticking,” says John Nettles, president of Alabama-based Pine Belt Communications Inc. “You’re expected to complete it within one year after receiving your first reimbursement.” For the target recipients of the program, small and usually rural carriers with no more than 10 million customers, that means 2022 is going to be an insanely busy year. Without expansive subsidies, these telecoms have said they would not have been able to afford to comply with the government mandate, but now with federal reimbursements, they’ll soon be under the gun to source enough labor and eligible replacement gear to meet the FCC’s deadline. Nettles estimates it’ll likely take a four-person crew a week to overhaul each of his 67 towers.