The US government is considering a federal takeover of portions of the country's mobile broadband networks, according to documents obtained by Axios.
Axios cited a memo by a senior official as contending that the U.S. needs to quickly deploy 5G because China is in a top position with the technology and "is the dominant malicious actor" online.
A centralized, secure national 5G network could be built within three years and represent "the 21st century equivalent of the Eisenhower National Highway System", according to the memo acquired by Axios.
Several major carriers, however, are already investing heavily in 5G and it's unclear whether the effort would actually speed up network deployment - although the memo suggested that a national build-out could override local government restrictions on installation of new 5G infrastructure.
"ZTE's 7% correction and similar drop in other 5G-related Chinese shares seemed to be related to Trump's plan to build a government-owned 5G network in the USA", said Edison Lee, a Jefferies analyst in a report. "It argues that one of the "pros" of that plan is that it would cause "less commercial disruption" to the wireless industry than the government building a network".
Axios said the primary motivation behind a nationalized 5G network would be to keep US networks secure from the Chinese government.
The national security team of the White House administration is considering its options to counter a threat of spying by China on US phone calls. Pai added, "Any federal effort to construct a nationalized 5G network would be a costly and counterproductive distraction from the policies we need to help the United States win the 5G future". And many members of the government's intelligence team still feel threatened.
The documents reportedly go on to say that a model for government-controlled 5G infrastructure could be exported to other countries that are USA allies to guard against Chinese interference.
A spokesperson for AT&T said that the USA is already working on a 5G network - with AT&T's set to be switched on later this year.
'We want to build a secure 5G network and we have to work with industry to figure out the best way to do it, ' the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The government would also create a process for installing 5G wireless equipment, preventing states and municipalities from developing their own rules about equipment installation, according to Axios.
The government is considering such a plan to take over nation's mobile network to guard against China. The proposal also goes against numerous principles laid out by the current FCC chair, Ajit Pai, who has been a vigorous advocate of a "light-touch" approach to networks where the federal government backs off from subsidizing and regulating internet service providers.
The telecom industry, which is powerful in Washington, is already working on 5G.
Wireless carriers in the US have spent billions of USA dollars buying up spectrum for the launch of their 5G networks.