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India, United Kingdom to work together on 5G, telecommunications

A telecom tower

India and the United Kingdom will work together in the fields of telecommunications, specifically 5G. The Union Cabinet on Wednesday gave its approval for signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the Ministry of Communications and UK’s Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sports (DCMS).

The UK is the latest country to join hands with India as part of a global “anti-China” alliance of sorts to check the expansion of Chinese telecom companies such as Huawei and ZTE in the global 5G space. Around a month ago, India announced cooperation with Japan on 5G and 5G Plus technologies, with support from the United States and Australia.

The MoU between India and UK will contribute to strengthening bilateral cooperation in the field of telecommunications, ICT (information and communications technology), noted a government statement. The two countries will work on development of technologies such as 5G, Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing and Big Data. Importantly, they will also work on the “security of telecommunication infrastructure”.

What this could mean

A large number of countries have been closing ranks against Chinese tech companies such as Huawei and ZTE, preventing them from building 5G infrastructure in their respective jurisdiction. This is primarily because of the fear that these companies work with the Chinese intelligence and military, and hence pose national security risks to other countries.

The US is currently rallying countries to join its boycott, which has been in place since mid-2019. Other countries have also taken similar decisions in the recent past. The UK, for instance,  has announced it would remove Huawei from it 5G networks by 2027. More recently, Sweden banned telecom equipment from Huawei and ZTE. Australia had been one of the first countries to ban “high-risk” vendors in 2018.

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While India has not yet announced an official policy on 5G, it has exhibited suspicion towards Chinese tech, especially after border clashes along the Line of Actual Control earlier this year. While the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY) had recently told Parliament that it had no plans to exclude Chinese companies from 5G infrastructure contracts, companies have taken things into their own hands. In August, 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.

Areas where UK and India will cooperate:

  • Telecommunications/ICT policy and regulation;
  • Spectrum Management;
  • Telecommunication connectivity including mobile roaming;
  • Telecommunications/ICT technical standardizations and testing & certification;
  • Wireless Communications;
  • Technological development in Telecommunications/ICT including 5G, Internet of Things/Machine to Machine, Cloud Computing, Big Data etc,;
  • Security of Telecommunication Infrastructure, Security in the provision and use of telecommunication services;
  • Building capacity in high technology areas and exchange of expertise wherever possible;
  • Collaboration and Sharing of information on Research & Development on emerging technologies and innovation where appropriate;
  • Exploring opportunities for joint work in signatory countries and third countries on Telecommunications/ICT;
  • Facilitating Trade, investment and technology activities through Telecommunication/ICT industry delegations and visits, events, exhibitions etc. as mutually agreed; and
  • Other forms of cooperation in Telecommunications/ICT as mutually agreed upon by the Parties, falling with the scope of MoU.

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