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AT&T’s announcement last week that it had chosen Ericsson to be its open RAN wireless vendor contained another news nugget that was easily overlooked: Ericsson is building the equipment in the U.S. and has received Build America, Buy America authorization on it.

According to the announcement, Ericsson is the first wireless equipment vendor to receive that authorization.

In an effort to spur domestic production and create U.S. jobs, the rules for the $42.5 billion BEAD rural broadband funding program require awardees to rely primarily on U.S.-made equipment. To date, certain manufacturers of fiber cabling and fiber broadband equipment have received Buy America authorization, thereby enabling providers winning BEAD funding to use the equipment for BEAD-funded deployments.

BEAD is a funding program for fixed broadband, so it isn’t clear why Ericsson opted to get Buy America (also known as BABA) certification for its wireless equipment.

When Telecompetitor asked an Ericsson spokesperson about this, the spokesperson said simply that the Ericsson USA 5G Smart Factory in Lewisville, Texas builds 5G and Advanced Antenna Systems radios and that this factory will be used for production of related infrastructure for the deal with AT&T.

Perhaps AT&T and Ericsson wanted the BABA authorization as a good will/public relations move. Alternatively, the companies may be preparing for the possibility that Buy America requirements will be included in the upcoming 5G Fund.

The FCC has been collecting feedback on how to structure that fund but has not yet confirmed final rules. Nevertheless, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the commission include Buy America requirements in those rules.

Companies that have received Buy America authorization for fiber broadband equipment include Adtran, Calix and Nokia. Companies that have received the authorization for fiber cabling include Commscope, Corning, Prysmian, and Superior Essex.

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