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India, Japan to work together to develop 5G tech: Report

A telecom tower

India and Japan will work together to develop 5G and 5G plus technologies, reported Hindustan Times. The two countries are part of the Quad grouping, along with Australia and United States. Officials of the Quad countries met virtually on Friday to discuss issues surrounding the Indo-Pacific region. According to a US State Department statement, the officials discussed ways to “promote the use of trusted vendors, particularly for fifth generation (5G) networks”.

An unnamed official involved in the meeting told Hindustan Times that India and Japan had agreed to cooperate closely to develop 5G and other advance technologies, with increased technological support from the US and Australia. Israel, too, will reportedly extend its support. The official also said that India’s 5G policy would be taking “final shape” in the coming days, and that Japan would be a close partner nevertheless.

India is also reportedly looking to play a bigger role in the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), a group of standards organisations which develops protocols for telecommunications. India and its partners will be setting more global standards, which until now has been done by Chinese telecom companies.

Both India and Japan are currently at odds with China. India has been busy with a series of clashes along its border with China in Ladakh. Japan, meanwhile, is facing Chines intrusions in the Senkaku Islands.

The foreign ministers of the four countries are expected to discuss next generation telecommunications technologies in their meeting in Japan next month.

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Concerns around Huawei’s 5G tech

Although the US State Department’s statement does not mention China directly, the Quad countries’ cooperation can be seen from the prism of worldwide suspicion towards Chinese tech, especially 5G. The US recently has already Huawei and ZTE, two Chinese companies with significant prowess in 5G, as “national security threats”. The US claimed the companies were likely cooperating with Chinese intelligence services, and had close ties to the country’s military as well. Since 2019, the US Department of Commerce has added Huawei and over a hundred of its affiliates to its “Entity List”, effectively prohibiting the company from importing, exporting or using American technology.

Chinese tech faces similar suspicion in India. Post the Indo-China border clashes, the Indian government has banned as many as 224 Chinese-owned apps, including TikTok, PUBG, Camscanner, Shein, Clash of Kings and WeChat citing “national security” reasons.

Although, both Huawei and ZTE had been allowed to participate in 5G trials in India, the government reconsidered this decision after the border clashes. Officially, the government doesn’t seem to have taken a decision yet. Recently, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY) told Parliament that it had no plans to exclude Chinese companies from 5G infrastructure contracts. However, companies are trying to maintain a distance from Chinese companies on their own. Last month, Airtel was reported to be applying for 5G trials without Chinese vendors like Huawei and ZTE. Similarly, Reliance chairperson and managing director Mukesh Ambani had announced in July that Jio’s 5G technology was built “from scratch” by Reliance employees, without any Chinese tech.

Last week, the Department of Telecommunications said that BSNL’s upcoming 4G network should be built by Indian companies. The state-run company had cancelled a 4G tender in the aftermath of the border clashes, and a new one reportedly in the works is expected to make Chinese companies ineligible. Interestingly, more than half of the telecom equipment currently used by BSNL has been acquired from Huawei and ZTE.

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