China Unicom’s authorisation to operate in US revoked by regulator
- The 4-0 vote marks the latest move by the Federal Communications Commission to bar Chinese telecoms firms from the country over security concerns
- The order requires China Unicom Americas to end domestic interstate and international telecommunications services in the US within 60 days
The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Thursday voted 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 that had been granted in 2002 is the latest move by the American regulator to bar Chinese telecommunications 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 United States within 60 days of the order’s publication.
China Unicom and the Chinese embassy did not immediately respond to requests for comments.
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 Chairwoman 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”. The company said in 2020 it had “a good record of compliance with its FCC regulatory obligations, and a demonstrated willingness to cooperate with US law enforcement agencies”.
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 Commerce Department, the FBI, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and other agencies to update that list.
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 the centres.
The FCC began making efforts in March to revoke the authorisation for China Unicom, Pacific Networks and its wholly owned subsidiary ComNet.
In October, the FCC revoked the US authorisation for China Telecom (Americas), saying it “is subject to exploitation, influence and control by the Chinese government”. The Chinese failed to win an appeal of the decision.
In 2019, the FCC rejected China Mobile Ltd’s bid to provide US telecommunications services, citing security risks.