A US Department of Commerce (DoC) agency recommended the Federal Communications Commission deny a request by China Mobile for an operating licence in the country due to national security concerns.

State-owned China Mobile, the largest mobile operator in the world by subscribers, in 2011 applied for a licence with the FCC to offer telecoms services to the US.

David Redl, assistant secretary for communications and information at the DoC, said in a statement: “After significant engagement with China Mobile, concerns about increased risks to US law enforcement and national security interests were unable to be resolved.”

A lengthy report by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, the executive branch agency which advises the president on telecoms and information policy issues, stated: “China Mobile is vulnerable to exploitation, influence and control by the China government, and China Mobile would likely comply with requests made by the Chinese government.”

The report went on to say: “The executive branch believes that granting the authorisation poses an unacceptable risk to US national security and law enforcement, and that risk can be expected to increase over time.”

It said the assessment rests in large part on China’s record of intelligence activities and economic espionage targeting the US, along with the size, technical and financial resources of the operator.

Rising tensions
The recommendation comes during rising tensions between Washington and Beijing. The US government is considering a number of actions to ban the use of equipment from Huawei and other Chinese telecom companies. Politicians also urged Google to end its relationship with Huawei on the grounds the vendor poses a risk to national security.

Last week a group of congressmen said Huawei’s innovation research programme posed a “significant threat to national security” by allowing China to effectively lift research from the US.

The politicians claim Huawei has ties to the Chinese government, which the vendor vehemently denies.