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Japanese companies to help India with 5G wireless tech, submarine fiber optic: Report

A telecom tower

Japanese companies will support the introduction of 5G wireless networks, submarine fiber-optic cables and other technologies in India, the country’s officials told Nikkei Asia. The two countries, as reported earlier, are set to work closely on developing 5G and future technologies to counter China’s dominance in telecommunications.

Officials told the publication that Ravi Shankar Prasad, India’s IT minister, and Ryota Takeda, his Japanese counterpart, will sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for a comprehensive agreement in an upcoming online meeting. This is reportedly the first MoU of its kind between Indian and Japanese cabinet ministers.

What Japan will help India with

The MoU between the two countries will reportedly include the use of 5G technology, along with efforts to standardise future generation — 6G — technology, which is expected to adopted in the next decade. India, according to a report from September, is looking to play a bigger role in the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), a group of standards organisations that will eventually set up global telecommunications standards.

Japanese companies will help Indian companies in laying undersea fiber-optic cable. NEC, one of Japan’s biggest electronics and IT companies, will reportedly seek to work on laying submarine cables between the Indian mainland and Lakshadweep Islands, a plan announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Independence Day this year. Another Japanese company, Rakuten (which Nikkei reports is doubling its IT workforce in India), is reportedly planning to export a cloud-based mobile network that will reduce the cost of installation and operation of 5G technology.

On the other hand, India is expected to provide human resources assistance to Japan, which is short on professionals familiar with information technology and digital tools.

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Concerns around Chinese telecom dominance

India and Japan’s partnership, which is being supported by Australia, United States and Israel, comes at a time of distrust towards Chinese telecom infrastructure companies, namely Huawei and ZTE. Multiple countries have pledged to keep Chinese players out of their respective 5G networks. This is largely because of fears that these companies are working with the Chinese military and intelligence agencies.

Just this week, the United Kingdom, decided to ban the installation of Huawei equipment in its 5G network from September 2021, with a planned full removal by 2027. In 2019, the United States had declared Huawei and ZTE as “national security threats”. By placing the companies on its Entity List, the US has made it practically impossible for Huawei and ZTE to buy or sell American technology. Furthermore, the US is also helping developing countries reduce their reliance on Chinese telecom equipment.

Elsewhere, Australia was one of the first countries to ban Huawei for being “high-risk” vendor in 2018. Recently, Sweden banned equipment from Huawei and ZTE.

Within India, distrust towards Chinese tech was compounded after a series of clashes between their militaries on the Line of Actual Control (LAC). India has since banned as many as 267 Chinese-owned apps, including popular ones such as TikTok, PUBG Mobile and WeChat.

While the country hasn’t specified its policy on Huawei and ZTE, India telecom operators are already steering clear from them. In August, Airtel was reportedly applying for 5G trials without equipment from either company. Jio has famously advertised that its networks have no Chinese equipment at all. Nonetheless, an unnamed Indian official told the Hindustan Times earlier in September that India’s 5G policy was taking “final shape”.

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