Trump needs fodder for the campaign trail, maybe Huawei fits the bill

A thriving economy and low levels of unemployment might have been the focal point of President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign, pre-pandemic, but fighting the ‘red under the bed’ might have to do now.

In 2016, Donald Trump won the Presidential election for numerous reasons, but one very important element was his ability to mobilise the vote of elements of society who wouldn’t have had any interest in politics otherwise. One reason was because of who Trump was and is, a celebrity more than a statesman, but perhaps a more critical element was the message.

Trump ignored political correctness, seemingly appealing to racism and xenophobia as the Make America Great Again slogan was born. He proposed the deportation of all illegal immigrants, the construction of a wall on the US-Mexico border and a temporary ban on foreign Muslims entering the US. The forgotten men and women of the US were the focal point of this campaign.

This campaign, focusing on a single message of foreign people are bad for patriotic US citizens, worked. If Trump is to repeat the success of his 2016 Presidential Election in November, there will have to be another message at the core of the campaign to rouse the masses and build a slogan on.

There has been a suspicion that the success of the economy and low levels of unemployment would have been this focal point. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the economy was on the rise. From Trump’s entry to the Oval office on 6 January 2017, to the final days before lockdown in February, the Dow Jones grew from 19,963 to 29,398, a 47% surge. Unemployment was down to 3.5%, slowly eroding through the three-year period.

The message could have been ‘look what four years of Trump has gotten you, wouldn’t you like four more?’. But then coronavirus hit, and the economy went down the toilet.

The Dow Jones will recover, as will unemployment, but the Trump campaign would be playing with fire by making this the central point of the campaign. Many believe Trump was too slow to act against the coronavirus after spending months claiming it was little more than the common flu. At its worst point, the Dow Jones fell to 18,591 while unemployment is currently as high as 14%, and likely to go higher.

Using the economy as a reason for re-elections is offering ammunition to the Democrat candidate, the opening round of a slug match where Trump can be undermined and embarrassed.

Without this weapon in his arsenal, Trump will have to find a new focal point to build a campaign around; China and Huawei could fit the bill.

Trump needs to redirect attention away from his failings as a leader during the pre-coronavirus weeks. People generally need an enemy when times are hard, and the invisible enemy of today will not do; you can’t get people angry about a virus, not in the way that the Trump campaign will want. If Trump can further vilify the Chinese, he can position himself as the hero, the man to champion US values, whatever they might be.

Huawei has been made the proxy of the Chinese Government in the eyes of the US. If the US is scared about the ‘red under the bed’, the idea of communism creeping into democratic societies secretly, the successful telecoms vendor can be made public enemy number one.

This is clearly not a new campaign of hate from the President, but it is one which had quietened off over the last few months. It is an on-going conflict point between the US and Chinese Governments, and fuel was thrown onto the embers last week.

In a new assault from the US Department of Commerce, further efforts were made to inhibit the ability of Huawei to source semiconductor components for smartphones and base stations. The US is perhaps hoping the globalised nature of the technology industry, which has allowed Huawei to thrive, can be weaponised against it as few (if any) companies could operate without a single trace of the US in its supply chain.

“We have survived and forged ahead despite all the odds,” Huawei Rotating Chairman Guo Ping said at a virtual conference this week. “The US insists on persistently attacking Huawei, but what will that achieve for the world?”

Conflict with the Chinese might not sound good for economic reasons, but for political ones, it is fantastic. Trump needs an enemy so he can be the champion of for the forgotten men and women of the US.

While it is clear there are a lot of US politicians buying into the anti-China campaign of hate, we asked Telecoms.com readers how they feel about the on-going aggression towards Huawei:

Telecoms.com Poll: Do you feel the US Government is justified in its action against Huawei?
Yes, it is effectively a pawn for the Chinese Government 43%
Yes, but Government links are not there 1%
Maybe, but show us the evidence of foul play first 12%
No, Trump shouldn’t punish a company just because it is Chinese 22%
No, international competition should be left to sort itself out 22%

Huawei might have enjoyed a brief breather over the last few months, but the signs are there to suggest there might be greater conflict on the horizon. Speaking at the Munich Security Conference this week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defence Mark Esper both drew battle lines.

“Let’s talk for a second about the other realm, cybersecurity,” Pompeo said during his speech. “Huawei and other state-back tech companies are trojan horses for Chinese intelligence.”

“Under President Xi’s rule, the Chinese Communist Party is heading even faster and further in the wrong direction,” said Esper. “More internal repression, more predatory economic practices, more heavy handedness, and most concerning for me, a more aggressive military posture.”

Further sanctions and more aggressive policies against Huawei specifically, as well as other Chinese companies in the international markets, could be on the horizon. Huawei executives have certainly expressed concern, but there are numerous other companies who should also be sitting uncomfortably.

The US Senate recently passed the Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act (S.945) which could result in numerous companies who do not pass strict criteria being delisted from US stock exchanges. China is of course a target with this legislation.

“The SEC works hard to protect American investors from being swindled by American companies,” said Senator John Kennedy, one of the politicians to introduce the original bill.

“It’s asinine that we’re giving Chinese companies the opportunity to exploit hardworking Americans – people who put their retirement and college savings in our exchanges – because we don’t insist on examining their books. There are plenty of markets all over the world open to cheaters, but America can’t afford to be one of them.”

This legislation would not impact Huawei, it is a private company after all, but it is further evidence of increasing aggression towards China, and suggestions there could be rising tensions.

And while Huawei might be attracting the most attention from US Senators right now, there are certainly more which could fall into the crosshairs. Tencent owns TikTok which has already come under criticism, Alibaba is hoping to expand its cloud computing venture into international markets, while the likes of OPPO and Xiaomi are proving to be quite successful in gaining interest as challenger smartphone brands. These are all companies which would perhaps fall foul of US opinion.

The first Trump campaign rallies will give more of an indication of what will be the focus of his scorn and hatred over the coming months, and where the pent-up frustrations of US citizens could be directed. We suspect Huawei could be in for a rough few months as Trump further vilifies the Chinese Government and looks for an opponent to bureaucratically challenge during the campaign.

Taking down Huawei could be the feather the Trump campaign is looking for in its quest for re-election to the White House.


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Intelsat files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

Intelsat has announced it will restructure its finances as it files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in the US Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.

Although it sounds very pessimistic, Chapter 11 Bankruptcy is not the end of the world. It is very expensive, thanks to hefty legal and administrative fees, but it allows an organisation to reorganise debts. It allows a business to survive, albeit with some very long-term debts.

It is not ideal of course, effectively admitting that the business model has failed, or a company has not been able to keep pace with the market, but companies can emerge the other side. General Motors and United Airlines both filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in 2009 and 2002 respectively.

Another satellite company, OneWeb, also filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in recent months, suggesting this is a segment of the telco industry which is struggling.

“This is a transformational moment in the history of our company,” said Stephen Spengler, CEO of Intelsat. “Intelsat is the pioneer and foundational architect of the satellite industry. For more than 50 years, we have been respected for quality, innovation, sector leadership, and premium services. Our success has come despite being burdened in recent years by substantial legacy debt. Now is the time to change that.

“We intend to move forward with the accelerated clearing of C-band spectrum in the United States and to achieve a comprehensive solution that would result in a stronger balance sheet. This will position us to invest and pursue our strategic growth objectives, build on our strengths, and serve the mission-critical needs of our customers with additional resources and wind in our sails.”

The FCC has said it will reimburse satellite companies who assist in clearing the C-Band airwaves, but it is an expensive job. Intelsat would be eligible for $4.87 billion from the FCC, however, these funds will drip feed into bank accounts over a long period of time. $1 billion will have to be spend up front, cash which Intelsat clearly does not have, hence the current bureaucratic process.

It does appear the satellite industry is one which is struggling for cash and one which could look very different over the next few years.

Telcos have repeatedly said satellite is an important component of the industry, an element of the connectivity patchwork. To deliver the digital economy, different technologies will have to work seamlessly alongside each other, as there are pros and cons to every aspect.

However, despite the proclamation of importance it appears cash is not flowing through to the satellite segment of the industry. It might well at some point, but who can wait that long? Musk and Bezos probably can.

With Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos investing in this segment, there are two technology titans on the scene who can probably outwait the traditional satellite companies. With big bank accounts fuelling these ventures, these businesses can be patient in the pursuit of profits. This advantage might make this segment look very different in a few years, as some succumb to the pressures of time, while others bask in the ray of financial security.

Another satellite company emerges, this time in Australia

Myriota has recently completed a Series B funding round led by Hostplus and Main Sequence Ventures, raising AUS$28 million in the process.

Specialising in low-cost and low-power satellite connectivity for the Internet of Things (IoT) industry, Myriota has now raised AUS$50 million to date. The team can now list off several high-profile investors, including the South Australian Venture Capital Fund, Singtel Innov8 and Boeing HorizonX.

That said, the most interesting name on the list is former Prime Minister of Australia Malcolm Turnbull.

“This is a critical time for IoT. Presently, 90% of the Earth’s surface lacks connectivity,” said Myriota CEO Alex Grant. “At Myriota, we’ve been focused on filling that gap and overcoming constraints in existing infrastructure. With this new round of funding, we’ll continue to grow our network of satellites to deliver an affordable, environmentally friendly, and powerful solution to make data accessible for our global customer base.”

The business model for Myriota is to focus on segments of the IOT world which might be considered less interesting to other connectivity providers. These applications, such as keeping tabs on weather stations, are low yielding though Myriota could certainly carve itself a niche.

Myriota claims to have pioneered a new way to retrieve data from anywhere on Earth through the connectivity between its constellation of satellites and low-power IoT modules, enabling it to build a business designed for low-yielding segments of the technology world. However with a smaller constellation than other satellite companies, it will seemingly rule itself out for services and customers who rely on more time and data-intensive operations.

With the new funds, the Myriota management team has said it plans to increase its constellation of satellites to 25 by 2022, and to increase the headcount of the business by 50% over the same time.

OneWeb files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy thanks to COVID-19

Satellite challenger OneWeb has filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy, blaming the spread of the coronavirus as the reason talks for additional funding fell through.

During the final hours of Friday, OneWeb voluntarily filed for relief under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code in the US Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York.

Having launched 74 satellites into the low-earth orbit, secured spectrum licences, begun development of user terminals, with half of its 44 ground stations completed or in development and trials demonstrating 400 Mbps and latency of 32 milliseconds done, the company has run into financial complications.

According to Crunchbase, OneWeb has raised more than $3 billion over four funding rounds, though this has not been sufficient to complete the 648-satellite constellation mission. OneWeb claims to have been engaged in advanced negotiations regarding investment that would fully fund the business through its deployment and to commercial launch, but the financial impact and market turbulence caused by COVID-19 scuppered plans.

With Milbank LLP serving as OneWeb’s legal counsel, FTI Consulting as its restructuring advisor and Guggenheim Securities as the financial advisor, the aim is to restructure the business to allow remaining cash to be directed towards the operation and maintenance of the existing assets, while the proceeds from the sale could be used to satisfy some of the debts.

Unfortunately for OneWeb employees, this means all proactive and development activities will be put on hold resulting in redundancies.

“OneWeb has been building a truly global communications network to provide high-speed low latency broadband everywhere,” said CEO Adrian Steckel. “Our current situation is a consequence of the economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis. We remain convinced of the social and economic value of our mission to connect everyone everywhere. Today is a difficult day for us at OneWeb.”

For those who are not familiar with Chapter 11 Bankruptcy terms, it does not mean the end of an organisation.

Chapter 11 Bankruptcy allows a debtor, in this case OneWeb, to reorganise debts to stay afloat and offer a fresh start. It is an incredibly costly procedure thanks to filing and legal fees, and the debtor will be paying back old debts for a number of years, but it does create a new framework for the business to continue to operate.

Although this is one of the least common procedures to follow due to the complexity, speed and cost, it is not unheard of. General Motors (2009) and United Airlines (2002) are two organisations who have proceeded down this route and are operating healthily today.

“So many people have dedicated so much energy, effort, and passion to this company and our mission. Our hope is that this process will allow us to carve a path forward that leads to the completion of our mission, building on the years of effort and the billions of invested capital,” said Steckel.

“It is with a very heavy heart that we have been forced to reduce our workforce and enter the Chapter 11 process while the Company’s remaining employees are focused on responsibly managing our nascent constellation and working with the Court and investors.”

For OneWeb, the process is being undertaken in pursuit of a sale, begging the question as to whom might be tempted to spend a couple of billion for the satellite business? There are of course rivals who might be tempted, Elon Musk’s SpaceX Starlink or Jeff Bezos’ Project Kuiper, or there might be a few on Wall Street, but this would be a more speculative bet.

Connectivity is proving to be a very popular investment today, the cash being pumped into full-fibre broadband is evidence of this, but these investors are chasing more low-risk returns. The telecoms industry is offering better returns than traditional investments, some Government Bonds are in negative interest rates, though mobile and fibre are connectivity models with proven customer appetite. The promise of satellite is interesting, but the profits are still based on assumptions and theories.

The unproven nature of the low-earth orbit satellite segment is perhaps an explanation why excitement is being driven by billionaire innovators not traditional finance sources, though there are new customers emerging. Satellite connectivity looks appealing to automotive, maritime, enterprise, and aviation industries, as well as cellular backhaul and mobility usecases. Markets are emerging, which might encourage more interest.

The troubles at OneWeb could offer an opportunity for somewhat of a bargain entry into the field.

Vodafone and Rakuten join the low-orbit space race

Satellites are back in fashion and soon enough tens of thousands of devices will be swirling above our heads, now Vodafone and Rakuten are teaming up to join the trend.

The race to the skies is quickly becoming one of the more interesting trends in the telco industry, as more operators search for ways to expand coverage in a cost-effective manner. Telefonica and Softbank are two of the founding members of the High-Altitude Platform stations (HAPS) Alliance, Google’s Project Loon is making headway in proving the commercial viability of balloons as a means of delivery, and low Earth orbit satellites are appearing everywhere.

The new joint venture from Vodafone Group and Rakuten, SpaceMobile, will aim to launch a constellation of low Earth orbit assets to fill in the coverage holes, addressing rural environments in developed nations and tackling the difficulties in commercially justifying network deployment in developing regions.

“At Vodafone we want to ensure everyone benefits from a digital society – that no-one is left behind,” said Nick Read, CEO of the Vodafone Group. “We believe SpaceMobile is uniquely placed to provide universal mobile coverage, further enhancing our leading network across Europe and Africa – especially in rural areas and during a natural or humanitarian disaster – for customers on their existing smartphones.”

Perhaps the most interesting element to this project is the proprietary technology which is being incorporated by AST & Science. The start-up, which has recently completed a Series B funding round to which Vodafone contributed, is developing technology which theoretically allows any 4G and 5G compatible phone to connect to the low Earth orbit satellites.

According to Vodafone, this is somewhat of a gamechanger. Satellite connectivity was only useful for specialist satellite phones traditionally, but in democratising connectivity, the usecases begin to add up. Whether this is to fill in ‘not spots’ in the UK or to deliver connectivity in regions where the environment makes traditional deployment unfeasible, this is a supplementary layer of connectivity for everywhere and anywhere.

“AST & Science’s SpaceMobile venture is a perfect fit for us,” said Mickey Mikitani, chairman and CEO of Rakuten. “Our investment is part of our broader strategy to become a leading mobile network operator in Japan and a global solution provider to markets around the world.

“Rakuten’s strategic investment with AST & Science has the potential to support our efforts to connect users across Japan through mobile innovation, expanding national coverage from metropolitan to remote areas and bolstering the network in times of natural disaster.”

For Vodafone, the first deployments will be in Africa, where the topography and local economies have made traditional network deployment difficult. However, these are the early days of the project and it will take years to see any material impact on the connectivity landscape. But it is an interesting project.

The question which remains is why satellites are coming back into fashion? The answer is really quite simply; the technology has improved.

Not only are traditional satellites only able to connect to specific satellite devices, these were massive assets with poor performance associated. This is why satellite broadband has largely only been discussed in the developing markets over the last decade or so, the technology was too expensive and not good enough to be considered elsewhere.

With the introduction of companies like SpaceX and the introduction of reusable launch system, the cost of delivering assets into the skies is dropping every day. And with the invention of low-orbit satellites, performance has increased.

The simplest way of looking at it is that it is a question of physics; the further away the satellite is, the higher the latency, the weaker the signal and the slower the download speeds. Vodafone was not able to give any estimates on what speeds they expect from this low Earth orbit constellation, but it should be acceptable performance.

The important point to remember about these satellite connectivity layers is that it is just that; an additional layer to add to the connectivity mesh to improve coverage and reliability. It fills ‘not spots’ and builds options in the rural environments. This is not a technology which will replace traditional means of delivering connectivity.

US heads towards C-Band but critics create risk of legal action

The FCC has proposed new actions which would finally make valuable mid-band spectrum available to telcos, but it is not without opponents.

For five years the FCC has been attempting to figure out how it can free-up the C-Band spectrum airwaves, and now it seems to have finally made some progress. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced the country’s largest ever spectrum auction, with 22,000 country-wide licences available in the 3.55-3.65 GHz, though the US will have to swallow a $14.7 billion bill for satellite companies to vacate the space. This is the issue for some.

“Shelling out billions for airwaves we already own is no way to handle taxpayer money – especially when taxpayers want those dollars to support rural broadband,” said Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana.

“People say appetites grow by indulgence, and it’s true: These foreign satellite firms want all four feet and their snout in the taxpayer trough. The FCC shouldn’t be helping them.”

Intelsat, SES, Eutelsat, Telesat and Embratel Star One have all demonstrated to the FCC they have commercial activities in the C-Band airwaves which would be negatively impacted by the proposals. Licences will expire towards the end of the decade, though the FCC has said it would make funds available to accelerate the process of vacating these valuable airwaves.

Senator Kennedy seemingly believes the satellite operators can be kicked off the airwaves at the drop of a hat as they are leaseholders of the assets not owners. The statement generally ignores well established commercial practices, though this is a man in an influential position.

The US Senate Committee on Appropriations regulates expenditures of money by the government. The FCC is under the jurisdiction of the Financial Services and General Government subcommittee, of which Senator Kennedy is the Chairperson. If Senator Kennedy wants to throw a spanner into the auction mechanism, he certainly has the power to do so.

And despite the financial reward for relocated out of the C-Band airwaves, not all the satellite companies are happy with the situation.

“This Order is fatally flawed by its misinterpretations of the Communications Act, and by its numerous arbitrary and capricious conclusions,” said ABS CEO Jim Frownfelter. “The Small Satellite Operators (SSOs) are going to be harmed by the unlawful revocation of the right to use 60% of their licensed C-band spectrum, and we will ask the courts to overturn this Order and to instruct the FCC to start the entire process again.”

ABS is a global satellite operator, offering broadcasting, data and telecommunication services, through a fleet of satellites operating in the C-Band airwaves. The Small Satellite Operators (SSO) is a lobby group representing ABC alongside Hispasat and Embratel Star One, plan on launching legal action to halt the auction process.

What is developing is a very complicated situation. The C-Band airwaves are key to the efficient deployment of 5G services, though thanks to congestion, they are not immediately available to US telcos.

Almost everywhere else around the world, mid-band spectrum is forming the foundation of the drive towards 5G. The spectrum marries a palatable balance between high-speed data downloads and extended coverage, hence the popularity in the absence of network densification projects. With a reliance on high-band spectrum in the US, delivering the promised experience of 5G might be very difficult and expensive.

The proposals put forward by the FCC, a dynamic spectrum sharing policy, is a very interesting one. A three-tier hierarchy will be created to offer the US Navy primary use over the airwaves, though the vast majority of the time, second and third tier licence owners will make use. This is an interesting approach and could offer regulators around the world confidence to take a new approach to spectrum management, though the threat of legal complications in the Senate and courts paint a gloomy picture.

US attempt to grab mid-band spectrum for 5G gets messy

The US telecoms regulator wants satellite companies to hand over 300 MHz of C-band spectrum, but the question of how compensation remains unresolved.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai recently made a rambling speech about how vital it is to US strategic interests that it lead the world in 5G. Apparently critical to this is a chunk of mid-band spectrum currently owned by a few satellite companies, so he wants to compel them to make it available to operators.

In return he’s going to get the operators to give the satellite companies up to $5 billion to cover the cost of vacating 300 MHz from 3.7-4 GHz and a further $9.7 billion to compensate them for the lost asset so long as they hand it over sharpish.

This is where things get complicated. On one hand it’s distinctly possible that the satellite companies will decide that’s not a fair valuation of their precious spectrum and thus hold out for more, with even the threat of bankruptcy apparently on the table. On the other hand there are people who thing that price is too high and in anyone’s going to extort US operators it should be the US state. And presumably the operators themselves would rather not get rinsed yet again.

“The imminent issuance of the draft order reflects the tireless efforts of many over the past several years to ensure that this critical spectrum comes to market safely, quickly, and efficiently,” said a statement issued by The C-Band Alliance, which represents the interests of Intelsat, SES and Telesat in this matter. “Today’s comments by Chairman Pai are a significant development in this important proceeding. We look forward to reviewing the draft order, once issued, to place Chairman Pai’s comments in full context.”

The danger for the C-Band Alliance is that the current US administration increasingly views 5G as a matter of national security and of strategic geopolitical significance. If Kennedy’s bleat is anything to go by, the US state is warming to the idea of unilaterally appropriating private property in the name of kicking 5G ass. 5G is important, but so are property rights and legal due process. Something’s got to give.

Seems the White House is all bark and no bite on intel sharing

The UK was threatened with intelligence embargoes should it allow Huawei to operate in its 5G industry, but Downing Street has seemingly won that game of chicken with the White House.

As part of the US lobby efforts over the last few months, access to valuable security data and intelligence was put on the line. The US Government believed allowing Huawei to contribute components to the UK’s 5G networks would compromise its own national security. The threat was made, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the White House bluff. Now it seems the US delegation in London is moonwalking away from the intelligence sharing ban.

The White House has been surprisingly quiet on the UK’s Supply Chain Review conclusion. Either President Donald Trump has his hands full with the on-going impeachment enquiry, or perhaps this an embarrassing outcome, a sign the Special Relationship is not as powerful as some would have thought, and the White House is not as influential as it currently believes.

Speaking at an event in London, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has suggested intelligence sharing between the two countries would continue.

“That relationship is deep, it is strong, it will remain,” said Pompeo.

Pompeo has remained resolute in his belief Huawei is a threat to Western democracies, believing the firm to be in-effect the intelligence gathering arm of the Chinese Communist Party. The Secretary of State even suggested there would be an opportunity for the UK to reconsider its decision in the future.

Although Pompeo is now on his way to Kiev, Ukraine, yesterday saw meetings with Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab. The aim is to underline the commitment of both parties to the Special Relationship and work towards a trade deal. Pompeo has suggested a new deal between the US and UK could be on the table by November.

While the UK has made its position very clear, there is still plenty of work for Pompeo to do; the UK is just one European nation after all.

“Our view of Huawei has been that putting it in your system creates real risk,” Pompeo said to reporters before leaving the US on the 28th January. “This is an extension – an extension of the Chinese Communist Party with a legal requirement to hand over information to the Chinese Communist Party.

“We’ll evaluate what the United Kingdom did.  It’s a little unclear precisely what they’re going to permit and not permit, so we need to take a little bit of time to evaluate that.  But our view is that we should have Western systems with Western rules, and American information only should pass through trusted networks, and we’ll make sure we do that.”

This trip abroad will see Pompeo have meetings in Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, and while there will certainly be lobbying taking place, the Secretary of State will also be keeping a keen eye on developments across Europe.

Germany is yet to make a formal decision, while France and Spain have not shown enthusiasm for banning the Chinese vendor. The UK is an influential voice in the European political arena, despite the offence Brexit might be causing, and if it can avoid retaliation from the temperamental President it adds confidence others could too.

Ultimately it was always likely to be an empty threat from the White House. Intelligence sharing works both directions, as the US will use data from allies to build its own databases. If the US banned intelligence sharing with every country where Huawei was operational in 5G, it might find itself to be very lonely.

In the greater game of political chess, the US is losing. If it is not able to convince arguably its closest ally, the UK, to its own way of thinking it might not have much success elsewhere. Thanks to Brexit, the UK was in a difficult position after all. Some might have suggested the UK would appease the White House in pursuit of a valuable trade deal, but Prime Minister Johnson has more of a spine than some have given him credit for.

Looking across the continent, Belgium looks unlikely to enforce a ban, having found no evidence that telecoms equipment supplied by Huawei Technology could be used for spying. France’s cybersecurity agency has seemingly given Huawei the thumbs up. Germany is holding off from a decision until after the EU Summit in March, though a ban is unlikely. Hungary is pro-Huawei. Italy has passed legislation to safeguard networks, but allowing Huawei in.

The US has seen lobby efforts gain traction in some nations such as Japan and Australia, though it has not been able to exert the same influence in Europe. This would have been unthinkable a decade ago, but it does appear the European nations are inclined to ignore the huffing and puffing from the Oval Office nowadays.

SpaceX fights back over Amazon’s satellite shortcut

Amazon is one of the many companies interested in deploying low-orbit satellites for the internet, but SpaceX is lobbying the FCC to prevent the internet giant dodging bureaucratic complications.

When launching a constellation of satellites for the delivery of mobile broadband, there are many boxes to tick. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos certainly has the cash, the interest, the ambition and the manpower to make his satellite venture a success, but one thing he doesn’t currently have is the regulatory approval to access spectrum. This is obviously a massive stumbling block.

Over the last few months, Amazon has been submitting various different filings with the ITU and the FCC to overcome the regulatory hurdles, but there is one monstrous complication; the spectrum has already been allocated.

This is where it starts to get very interesting. Amazon is asking for a waiver so it can pursue the delivery of mobile broadband via low-orbit satellite, but its competitors are lobbying against the waiver.

SpaceX has submitted its own opinion to the FCC where it believes the requests should be denied. Nine companies participated in the initial Ka-band licensing round, a very complex bureaucratic procedure to allocate spectrum to the likes of Telesat Canada, Theia Holdings, and Iridium Communications.

Amazon can participate in the secondary round of Ka-band licensing, though it risks being designated as secondary-operator. In this situation, it would have to cease operations should the assets interfere with the operations of one of the previously established operators. This is not a position the ambitious Bezos will want to be in.

The question which remains is whether the FCC will permit Bezos to take the shortcut, muscling in on spectrum licences which were allocated years ago, or will force the firm to take the official route. The likes of SpaceX will certainly want to make life difficult for Amazon, why would it want another competitor in the skies after all.

Should the FCC side with SpaceX’s lobbyists there is a risk Bezos might scale back his investment in the stars. But then again, does the FCC want to sour relationships with everyone else as an alternative?