Inside Race to Put ‘Made in USA’ on 5G | Light reading

A recent Mavenir filing with the FCC showed a label

Apple recently said it will buy billions of dollars worth of 5G components from San Jose, California-based Broadcom. A key part of the announcement included that some of the components will be built at Broadcom’s manufacturing facility in Fort Collins, Colorado.

“We are excited to make commitments that harness the ingenuity, creativity and innovative spirit of American manufacturing,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a statement.

The statement represents a shift for Apple, which has long built most of its gadgets in giant Chinese manufacturing cities. The iPhone vendor along with a growing portion of the US electronics industry is shifting at least some manufacturing to the US due to increasingly tense geopolitical relations between the US and China.

The trend, which coincides with the Biden administration’s efforts to encourage the development of domestic manufacturing capabilities, is increasingly affecting the 5G network equipment market. Radio vendors large and small from Nokia, Ericsson and Samsung to Mavenir and JMA Wireless are moving production to more politically favorable locations.

perceptions and reality

Ericsson, which builds products around the world, announced nearly five years ago that it would build a 5G manufacturing facility in Texas. By the end of next year, the company hopes to make all of its midband 5G equipment at the facility an effort that supports Ericsson’s pursuit of business with the US military.

Other vendors are working on similar selling propositions.

“JMA researches, designs and manufactures its 5G network equipment in the only US-owned 5G factory in the country,” the company said in a statement to Light Reading. JMA hosted several high-profile political figures at the opening of its new 5G manufacturing center in Syracuse, New York last year.

“This critical technology is a strategic asset America must own,” JMA said.

After Light Reading inquired about “Made in China” labels on some of Mavenir’s equipment, the company said it will update its filings with the FCC.

A recent Mavenir filing with the FCC showed a label

A recent Mavenir filing with the FCC showed a “Made in China” label. Click here for a larger version of this image.
(Source: FCC/Light Reading)

“We have no radio manufacturing in China,” the company wrote in response to questions from Light Reading. “We produced some early prototypes in China a while back. The labels you showed are from an illustration of an FCC document, not an actual product label.”

The company sent Light Reading pictures of some of its products with “Made in USA” labels.

Mavenir said some of its products have labels

Mavenir has said that some of its products feature “Made in USA” labels. Click here for a larger version of this image.
(Source: Mavenir)
Mavenir said some of its products have labels

Mavenir has said that some of its products feature “Made in USA” labels. Click here for a larger version of this image.
(Source: Mavenir)

“Given the geopolitical discussion, Mavenir shifted all plans several years ago to manufacture all of our radio products outside of China,” the company said, adding that it now has manufacturing operations in the United States, Mexico and India. The company said its main subcontractor is Jabil, which is based in the United States, and that its main radio engineering operation is based in Dallas, Texas.

Additionally, Mavenir’s CEO said the company will use some of its new funding to accelerate its manufacturing efforts.

“That’s why we raised nearly $500 million to build our radios because there was nobody with a business case to build them,” Pardeep Kohli, a senior executive at Mavenir, told Light Reading recently.

Global Operations

Other major 5G network providers have offered similar guarantees.

“Nokia has a globally distributed manufacturing network in Europe, Asia Pacific, Japan, India, the Americas and China, which helps us respond quickly to customer needs and reduce transportation costs and CO2 emissions,” he said the company in response to questions from Light Reading. “We have strong and long-standing customer relationships in the US where we have sold 5G RAN [radio access network] the products are currently mainly produced in Finland, Mexico and Vietnam. Nokia works closely with US-based technology companies, and our latest radio access network products are largely built using components from these US suppliers.”

In fact, a quick check of some of Nokia’s FCC filings shows labels that reflect a global approach to manufacturing.

Some Nokia FCC documents show

Some Nokia FCC documents show “Made in China”. Click here for a larger version of this image.
(Source: FCC/Light Reading)
Other Nokia FCC documents show a label

Other Nokia FCC documents show a “Made in Finland” label. Click here for a larger version of this image.
(Source: FCC/Light Reading)

“Samsung Networks manufactures 5G network components and equipment in South Korea, Vietnam and the United States. Specifically, we manufacture some critical 5G chipsets in the United States at our semiconductor facility in Austin, Texas,” the company wrote in a statement. answer to the questions of Light Lettura.

However, the devil is in the details. For example, some equipment supplier officials, who have asked not to be named, explained that the manufacturing process for 5G radios can be both complex and geographically dispersed. Some components may be manufactured in one location and then assembled into products in another, using components built elsewhere, meaning that one “Made in the USA” product could differ materially from another.

The biggest story

Moving operations from China, a country that has dedicated decades to becoming the world’s manufacturing hub, to locations with little or no manufacturing capacity is no small task. But Ericsson and other equipment makers have been working to do this for several years.

In 2018, for example, 5G equipment maker Inseego discussed at length its efforts to move production out of China. The reason was clear.

“The Trump administration announced tariffs of 10% on list three product series for 2018, with 10% increasing to 25% in 2019. We are well underway with moving the manufacturer of our products out of China in other unaffected jurisdictions,” Inseego CFO Steve Smith explained on a call at the time.

The trend is gaining traction in the telecommunications sector in part because the Biden administration stands by its intention to impose “Buy America” ​​restrictions on US government subsidies for building telecommunications networks in rural areas.

“NTIA believes that if it can be made in America, it should be made in America and that’s why we will strictly enforce the ‘Build America, Buy America’ (BABA) requirements,” the agency wrote in February. NTIA is charged with writing rules for awarding more than $40 billion in Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) program funding.

Adhering to those requirements won’t be easy, however, according to some longtime Washington players.

“The country can close the rural digital divide in the next few years, or it can enforce a strict Buy American mandate. It can’t do both,” wrote Blair Levin, a nonresident senior member of Brookings Metro and a former FCC official, in an April post on the Brookings site.

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Mike Dano, editorial director, 5G and mobile strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano


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