In a letter dated Feb. 27, Sens. Mark Warner, D-Va., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., requested Dan Coats, director of National Intelligence, produce “an unclassified report on the participation of China and other adversarial nations in the international standard setting bodies (ISSBs) for fifth-generation wireless telecommunications technologies (5G).”

Warner and Rubio, who both serve on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, explained that over the last year the committee has heard “anecdotal concerns” that China is attempting to exert its influence in the ISSBs, which “have historically functioned as technological meritocracies.” These anecdotal stories have raise concerns with Warner and Rubio because, as they explain, “not only does political influence undermine fair competition, it also raises serious economic and security concerns for 5G and future generations of wireless technologies.”

The two senators believe the report is needed so U.S. companies can effectively push back against China’s alleged behavior, and so the United States can coordinate with its allies to “deter anti-competitive practices in the ISSBs.”

Warner and Rubio requested that Coats detail three primary items:

  • Overall trends in the ISSBs over the last decade and “the implications of politicization of ISSBs, if there is evidence of such trends”;
  • Specific examples and case studies of China or other foreign adversaries attempting to “exert pressure or political influence within the ISSBs or at major telecommunication conferences to secure standards that are favorable to Chinese companies or patent holders, or that might introduce deficiencies into 5G networks”;
  • Implications of Chinese-led standards for 5G technologies and “how that will affect U.S. economic and security interests.” Specifically, Warner and Rubio are interested in how those would impact the efforts of U.S. companies to sell and scale their technologies, as well as the ability of the United States to position itself for future generations of wireless technology and protect itself against cyber intrusions and security vulnerabilities.

While the letter does not include a deadline for the report, the senators do “urge the IC to declassify relevant information.” Additionally, the senators conclude by saying, “We hope that this report will be part of an ongoing effort to share more timely and relevant information with U.S. companies and our allies.”

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk's Assistant Copy & Production Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.