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  • The US is strengthening its 5G infrastructure, according to a National Security Council official.
  • She said the US must improve its telecom infrastructure.
  • This article is part of “5G and Connectivity Playbook,” a series exploring some of our time’s most important tech innovations.

The US is bolstering its 5G infrastructure in the age of AI.

Anne Neuberger, the deputy national security advisor for cyber and emerging tech, said that 5G and 6G were some of “the most strategic sectors,” especially since telecom and data-center infrastructure houses the data required to train artificial-intelligence models.

On Thursday at the annual RSA Conference in San Francisco, she spoke at a fireside chat on cybersecurity and new technologies like 5G and AI, which was moderated by Niloofar Razi Howe, an operating partner at Capitol Meridian Partners.

Neuberger discussed the importance of the telecom sector, saying that one of the biggest challenges for the US was its lack of competitive technology in telecom infrastructure. She said the US needed to improve its hardware and encourage competition among vendors.

This is especially important, Neuberger said, as the US is engaged in a tech arms race with China and Chinese telecom companies, such as Huawei. As Chinese technology gets more embedded in the technology Americans use daily, whether it’s 5G technology or connected vehicles, the US needs to consider national security risks in how data is collected, she added.

“We’re at the point we can say, what’s a thoughtful approach that protects Americans’ sensitive data, that protects Americans’ navigation data while also promoting innovation?” Neuberger said.

The telecommunications industry affects valuable information belonging to American companies and the government. It’s also often managed and updated remotely, so it needs to be secure, Neuberger said.

“Telecom systems are so complex today,” she said. “If you don’t have confidence in those vendors, it’s really hard to trust it.”

Neuberger highlighted some of the government initiatives for investing in 5G, including the Biden administration’s $1.5 billion Public Wireless Supply Chain Innovation Fund, which aims to bring open standards into telecommunications and advance innovation in the wireless industry.

“What we’ve been trying to do is bring in innovation to bring in new players to allow our traditional strength in software to come to bear,” Neuberger said.

Grants from these these types of funds have helped US allies. They have allowed global telecom companies, including those from India, Japan, and Europe, to test new technology together and learn from each other. The US has also been building a telecom partnership with India, as it’s one of the biggest telecom markets in the world, along with the US and China.

In November, the White House launched its National Spectrum Strategy to promote innovation in wireless technologies. Neuberger said this included industries such as connected vehicles and defense, adding that these technologies allowed the US to aid Ukraine when Russia struck down its electric lines.

“As we think about how we lead in these connected industries in the future, we have to think about creative ways to use spectrum more efficiently and differently,” Neuberger said.

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