China Mobile Ltd. (NYSE: CHL) is the world’s largest mobile company. It has 900 million subscribers, almost three times the U.S. population. The company is owned by the Chinese government. The Trump administration wants to block its ability to do business in America, another casualty of an effort to keep Chinese technology companies from tapping into U.S. intellectual property.
The administration petitioned the FCC in a filing:
After significant engagement with China Mobile, concerns about increased risks to U.S. law enforcement and national security interests were unable to be resolved. Therefore, the Executive Branch of the U.S. government, through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration pursuant to its statutory responsibility to coordinate the presentation of views of the Executive Branch to the FCC, recommends that the FCC deny China Mobile’s Section 214 license request.
China Mobile’s petitions to do business in the United States date back to 2013.
While the move may be a setback for China Mobil, it will not have nearly the effect that a ban of sales of equipment made by U.S. companies to China’s ZTE has had. That ban basically has shut down ZTE.
China Mobile’s saturation of its home market must be the horizon. Its 900 million subscribers are a significant portion of China’s population of 1.38 billion. And the total population count includes all the nation’s children. Other than price increases for phones and services, China Mobile’s growth will be capped.
Beyond some presence in Hong Kong, Pakistan and several much smaller deals, China Mobile’s business is trapped inside its home market. India has 1.2 billion wireless users, but there is little evidence China Mobile has any presence there. That leaves the United States, with its 327 million users, as one of the most promising targets.
Do Chinese companies effectively spy on their clients in the United States? Do they steal their technologies? Instead of looking at this on a case-by-case basis, which may be impossible due to the complexity of the process, the White House seems to have decided to ban as many Chinese tech companies as possible. That leaves China Mobile out in the cold.