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FCC Votes to Revoke China Unicom’s Right to Operate in US

The 4-0 vote to revoke the authority granted in 2002 is the latest move by the regulator to bar Chinese telecom carriers from the US over national security concerns.

The FCC estimates the cost to remove the telecom equipment from Chinese companies like Huawei and ZTE from the "rip and replace" programme is $5.3bn
The FCC says it cannot approve 'untrustworthy' gear from Huawei and ZTE. Photo: Reuters.


The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted on Thursday to revoke the authorisation for China Unicom‘s US unit to operate in the United States, citing national security concerns.

The 4-0 vote to revoke the authority, granted back in 2002, is the latest move by the American regulator to bar Chinese telecom carriers from the United States because of national security concerns.

The order requires China Unicom Americas to end domestic interstate and international telecommunications services in the US within 60 days of the order’s publication.

The Chinese embassy did not immediately respond to requests for comments.

A lawyer for the company released a statement from China Unicom that said the FCC decision was “without any justifiable grounds and without affording the required due process.

It added that China Unicom “will proactively protect the rights and interests of the company and its customers.”


‘Beijing Owns China Unicom Americas’

The FCC said China Unicom Americas is ultimately owned and controlled by the Chinese government and provides mobile virtual network operator services and international private leased circuit and Ethernet private line services along with IP transit, cloud and resold services in the United States.

FCC chair Jessica Rosenworcel said since the approval “the national security landscape has shifted and there has been mounting evidence – and with it, a growing concern – that Chinese state-owned carriers pose a real threat to the security of our telecommunications networks.”

The FCC said China Unicom’s “responses were incomplete, misleading, or incorrect.”

Rosenworcel noted that last year the FCC published the first-ever list of communications equipment and services that pose an unacceptable risk to national security.

This month, she wrote to the Department of Commerce, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and other agencies in order to update that list.


Data Centres Can Stay, For Now

FCC commissioner Geoffrey Starks said China Unicom “can continue to offer data centre services to American consumers” despite the revocation.

He said the FCC and Congress should examine this issue and determine whether the commission needed broader authority to address security concerns posed by data centres.

The FCC began making efforts last March to revoke the authorisation for China Unicom, Pacific Networks and its wholly owned subsidiary ComNet.

In October, the FCC revoked US authorization for China Telecom (Americas), saying it “is subject to exploitation, influence and control by the Chinese government.” The Chinese group failed to win an appeal of the decision.

In 2019, the FCC rejected China Mobile Ltd’s bid to provide US telecommunications services, citing national security risks.


  • Reuters with additional editing by Sean OMeara





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Sean O'Meara

Sean O'Meara is an Editor at Asia Financial. He has been a newspaper man for more than 30 years, working at local, regional and national titles in the UK as a writer, sub-editor, page designer and print editor. A football, cricket and rugby fan, he has a particular interest in sports finance.


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