The US government plans to provide up to $ 1 billion in funding to rural wireless network operators. It is providing this fund to enable these operators to get rid of Huawei equipment in their network. However, some of these operators say that they may need more funding.
According to a rural operator, Viaero, it has contacted three major suppliers. The operator needs to know the actual cost of replacing all Huawei equipment in its network. Viaero has approximately 110,000 customers in rural areas of Nebraska, Colorado, and Kansas, mainly using Huawei equipment. The company did not disclose the names of the suppliers it contacted, but it may be Ericsson, Nokia, and Samsung. According to Viaero, “the quotations so far have proven to be higher than original estimates. It is more difficult because one supplier cannot provide a complete end-to-end solution.”
Other rural US operators share Viaero’s view
Viaero lists all potential costs and issues involved in removing Huawei equipment from its wireless network. “Equipment vendors have not made it clear to Viaero that they will be able to provide a turnkey solution for this network replacement within the possible time frame.”
Analysts at CoBank’s knowledge exchange department wrote in a report last year: “Our analysis shows that in rural networks, the cost of removing and replacing prohibited devices can be as high as $ 1 billion”. As of now, about 30 rural wireless network operators in the US use Huawei’s equipment and operate a total of about 10,000 outlets.
Not surprisingly, the Village Wireless Association (RWA), an industry association representing Viaero and other rural wireless network operators that purchase Huawei equipment, widely cited CoBank’s findings. Nevertheless, the latest comments from Viaero and RWA suggests that even $ 1 billion may not be enough.
For its part, the FCC recently began soliciting information from companies that have installed Huawei equipment. It wants to assess the extent of the “refurbishment and replacement” program. In all, the US may have to spend over $1 billion just to remove Huawei from its network.