FCC prioritizing 5G while keeping security risks in mind: Chair Ajit Pai

‘We need to make sure that we minimize the risk as much as possible,’ the FCC chairman said

The Federal Communications Commission is prioritizing 5G wireless technology advancements while keeping security risks in mind, chairman Ajit Pai said.

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His comments came amid tensions between the U.S. and Chinese tech giant Huawei, a global leader in 5G technology that has come under intense scrutiny in countries like the U.S. and Germany for its ties to China's Communist Party.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE FULL INTERVIEW WITH AJIT PAI

"5G or the fifth generation of wireless connectivity offers tremendous possibilities for consumers across the country. And it's also an issue of national competitiveness," Pai told FOX News Headlines 24/7 anchor Brett Larson on Wednesday. "Other countries saw the lead that the United States had in 4G. They want to seize that advantage when it comes to 5G, especially because 5G is going to transform entire industries."

Attendees walk past a display for 5G services from Chinese technology firm Huawei at the PT Expo in Beijing. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, File)

4G, or fourth-generation technology, is what most U.S. smartphones use today. 4G allows users to connect to the Internet at rapid speeds through radio waves that send signals between phones and cell towers.

WHAT IS 5G?

5G will make those speeds even faster and more accurate due to more advanced infrastructure and technology.

Pai has long been in favor of 5G and its potential to change the way certain U.S. industries -- like tech and health care -- operate, especially in rural areas, due to its ultra-fast connectivity potential.

He told Larson that 5G is a top priority for the FCC, which implemented “The 5G FAST Plan" in February 2019. The plan aims to push "more spectrum into the marketplace," update U.S. infrastructure and modernize "outdated regulations."

T-Mobile Chief Marketing Officer, Matt Staneff, left, shows off his shirt referencing T-Mobile's nationwide 5G network "Tell Your Mama" Super Bowl ad. (Stephen Brasher/AP Images)

"We want to make sure that America leads the world in 5G innovation and investment," he said.

Tech experts and lawmakers have previously expressed concerns that the U.S. is falling behind in what has come to be known as the global "race to 5G," with Huawei leading the industry so far.

WHEN WILL THE US HAVE 5G TECHNOLOGY?

The U.K. recently gave Huawei permission to help build part of its 5G networks in urban areas across the country, against warnings from U.S. government officials regarding the potential security threat of teaming up with a tech giant subsidized by the Chinese government.

"There are some companies looking to supply insecure equipment or services that go into these 5G networks," he said, adding that the FCC has barred U.S. telecom carriers from using federal funding to buy Huawei equipment and services.

Mobile network phone masts are visible in front of St Paul's Cathedral in the City of London, Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

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"China has a national intelligence law that requires any company subject to its jurisdiction to comply with requests from the intelligence services," Pai said. "And to me, the risk is just too great when we're talking about [5G] networks that will involve not just the hand of the hand-held phones that consumers carry but entire networks that manage our critical infrastructure, our transportation grid and the like."

Pai also expressed concerns about the extent to which the Chinese government is "willing to take such drastic steps to tackle things like NBA’s speech and the Taiwanese flag emojis," adding that the U.S. can't "afford to take a risk and hope for the best."

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FOX Business' Catie Perry contributed to this report