Telecoms get rip and replace extension, but China-controlled equipment may be with us past 2024

In Featured News by Wireless Estimator

The FCC has granted five telecom companies’ requests for additional time to “rip and replace” Chinese-manufactured equipment due to a shortfall of funding, supply chain issues, and workforce shortages due to factors beyond their control.

The agency agreed to delay their deadlines, extending them all into 2024 with the following new dates: WorldCell, May 20, 2024; Mediacom, January 15, 2024; Virginia Everywhere, February 8, 2024; James Valley Cooperative Telephone Company, April 8, 2024; and Viaero to May 18, 2024.

The FCC acknowledged that supply chain issues impeded the companies from meeting current removal, replacement, and disposal terms, citing delivery lead times of 11 months or more.

“We find that WorldCell, Mediacom, James Valley, and Viaero bear no fault for being unable to complete their removal, replacement, and disposal obligations by the end of their term,” the FCC ruled following receipt of the telecoms’ petitions for additional time.

“James Valley has reallocated funds away from other parts of its network to try to meet its deadline, but even so finds it cannot do so without additional funding from the Reimbursement Program, and Viaero states it has been ‘working diligently’ to install a replacement network but ‘simply cannot’ complete the task without more funding,” the FCC noted.

Last month, Viaero informed the FCC, “With no assurances of additional funding from Congress, we respectfully request the Commission to find that our ability to complete the permanent removal, replacement, and disposal by the end of the term is due to no fault of Viaero Wireless. Accordingly, we request a six-month extension of the one-year completion deadline.”

It is unknown if Viaero will request another extension if funding is not supplied.  

The FCC had approved approximately $2 billion in Congressional funding to finance removing Huawei and ZTE equipment from the US network. Still, the agency found it needed to be considered what it would cost and is asking for another $3 billion to fund the program entirely.

In May, Wireless Estimator reported on the Rural Wireless Association alerting the FCC to a rip and replace carrier, Pinebelt, that was $5 million over budget and only 15% completed.

In 2021, Pine Belt applied for $68 million in reimbursements from the FCC for the replacement effort. But in mid-2022, the agency said that it could only refund costs of up to $27 million.