US national security officials are debating whether to deny a Chinese government-owned mobile phone company a license to offer international service to American consumers.
China Mobile, the world’s largest mobile provider, applied for a license in October to the US Federal Communications Commission to provide mobile services between China and the United States, and to build facilities in the United States, according to the Australian Financial Review.
Officials from the FBI, the US Department of Homeland Security and the US Justice Department’s national security division are concerned that the move may give the Chinese government-owned company access to physical infrastructure and Internet traffic.
There are concerns it might allow the Chinese Government to spy more easily on the US Government and steal intellectual property from American companies, according to people familiar with the process who declined to be identified.
“Suddenly, you’ve got a perfect ability to exfiltrate information out of the country,” said Scott Aken, a former FBI cyber security investigator, according to the AFR.
Known collectively as ‘Team Telecom’, they review FCC applications by foreign-owned companies.
They could advise the FCC not to issue the license or may demand a signed agreement designed to satisfy security concerns.
The review is being led by the Justice Department, which declined to comment, as did the FBI and DHS, according to the AFR.
China’s largest fixed-line telephone company, China Telecom rerouted 15% of the world’s Internet’s traffic through Chinese servers for 18 minutes on April 8, 2010, according to the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission.
China Telecom started offering prepaid calling, text and data service to the 600,000 Chinese living in Britain in April, according to the New York Times.
The news comes after Chinese communications giant Huawei was denied contracts to help build Australia’s National Broadband Network and denied contracts providing US internet hardware.