USA tries to block China Mobile's entry


The world's biggest mobile network operator, China Mobile, probably won't get to enter the US market after the Trump administration moved to block it on national security grounds. That answer is officially no.

If China Mobile's application went through, it would enable the Chinese government to use it to spy on United States government agencies and other targets on domestic phone networks, the agency alleged. American lawmakers have, for example, described the phone-makers Huawei and ZTE (ztcoy) as "a severe national security threat".

Huawei Technologies Co said a proposed ban on selling its gear to some United States mobile providers isn't lawful, pushing back against assertions it poses a risk as the Trump administration increases pressure on China over trade and national security.

U.S. National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has reportedly recommended that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) deny China Mobile's application to offer telecommunications services from within the United States on national security grounds.

So it goes with China Mobile. After more than half a decade, the FCC has its official response from the Executive Branch, which has advised it to deny the application, blocking the carrier's attempt to enter the United States market.

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Thus, a traveller in the United States brings the government's internet firewall with them; a China Mobile user visiting Washington, D.C. can get roaming data through AT&T, but their SIM card will still block access to Google or Facebook, even if they stand on the White House lawn.

The move comes just days before the USA is due to impose steep tariffs on billions of dollars in Chinese imports, which is likely to spark countermeasures from Beijing. At the same time, Beijing worries that US intelligence could monitor messages between, say, Bank of China's NY offices and headquarters. India has 1.2 billion wireless users, but there is little evidence China Mobile has any presence there. ZTE, the Chinese telecom equipment maker that was blocked off from U.S. suppliers in April for violating a sanctions settlement, has seen its stock fallen by about half since the ban was announcement. Customers could include fixed and mobile network operators, calling-card companies, and business customers.

The agency said its assessment was also a result of China's "record of intelligence activities and economic espionage targeting the U.S., along with China Mobile's size and technical and financial resources". In early June, however, the president eased restrictions on ZTE after concerns that they harmed USA telecom gear makers that sold components to the company.

According to the NTIA, China Mobile could easily be "subject to exploitation, influence and control by the Chinese government" and this is why the agency recommended its application be turned down.

FCC spokesperson Tina Pelkey said the commission would review the filing.