The Straits Times says

Hard decisions in picking 5G partners

By any measure, United States Attorney-General William Barr's call for his government to take controlling stakes in Nordic telecommunications companies in the tussle with China's Huawei for domination in 5G technology is an unusual one. Expanding on his proposition, Mr Barr, a former lawyer for Verizon, suggested the US government "align itself" with Nokia and/or Ericsson and said this could be effected directly, or through a consortium of private American and allied companies. While the White House has partially distanced itself from Mr Barr's suggestion, economic adviser Larry Kudlow has said that although the US government would not buy companies, nothing prevents US tech companies from doing so.

Apart from the time when the Obama administration rescued General Motors during the global financial crisis, US governments, with their stress on free enterprise, have rarely chosen to go this path. Still, it must be noted that Mr Barr's speech follows what apparently was an apoplectic phone call between President Donald Trump and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, following the UK's decision to allow Huawei partial access to the nation's telecommunications network. That said, Britain's decision to keep Huawei away from the core of the networks, and to limit its participation to no more than a third of the structure, suggests it is still broadly aligned with the US, boosting the share price of the European telcos.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 11, 2020, with the headline 'Hard decisions in picking 5G partners'. Subscribe