The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has increased the scope of its reimbursement scheme for small telcos, allowing more operators to apply for a share of the $1.9bn fund
It was in February 2020 that the FCC officially declared Huawei and ZTE a security risk and mandated US telcos to remove the vendors’ equipment from their networks.
Hytera, Hikvision, and Dahua equipment were also banned as part of the decision.
Naturally, the rip-and-replacement of equipment is not cheap and many operators, especially smaller, rural players, said they would suffer financially as a result of the decision.
Initially, the FCC said that they would make $1 billion in funding available to help support smaller operators make the equipment transition, inviting operators with two million or fewer subscribers to apply for relief.
By December, with the impact of the coronavirus being widely felt across the country, the FCC announced that it would increase the size of the compensation fund to $1.9 billion as part of the second covid-19 stimulus bill.
Now, following a unanimous vote at the FCC monthly meeting, the scope of the reimbursement fund will be increased
, now allowing operators with 10 million or fewer subscribers to take part in the scheme.
Definitions for eligible services and products for reimbursement have now also been expanded to all Huawei and ZTE products for the first time.
Operators will be invited to apply from the end of October.
Acting chairwoman of the FCC, Jessica Rosenworcel, described the announcement as an “Important step” that “put the finishing touches on the Reimbursement Program”.
“Specifically, we harmonize the past work of this agency with new appropriations legislation. This means raising the eligibility cap for those participating. It means modifying rules about how reimbursement funds can be used. It also means updating prioritization policies in the event that reimbursement costs exceed available funding. But above all, it means we are getting going,” said Rosenworcel. “In fact, with this step underway, I am pleased to announce that October 29 is now our target date for opening the filing window for the Reimbursement Program. That means carriers can start planning for their applications and their new networks.”
In related news, today the FCC is currently hosting a virtual Open RAN showcase, set to explore operators that could potentially replace Huawei equipment.
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