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What the Quad joint statement has to say on 5G and chip shortages, and why it matters

Quad countries including India look to set open standards for 5G and wean off dependence on Chinese manufacturing.

The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue or the “Quad” — an informal alliance of India, the United States, Australia, and Japan — had their first in-person summit in Washington DC in the lead-up to the United Nations General Assembly meeting, and the four countries released a joint statement on September 25 outlining a variety of international security and cooperation priorities. The statement addressed two cyber priorities: 5G security and supply chain issues (the global chip shortage). “Today, we begin new cooperation in cyber space and pledge to work together to combat cyber threats, promote resilience, and secure our critical infrastructure,” the statement says.

This joint statement comes as China’s vision of the internet, that the Quad was formed to counteract, drifts further away from the rest of the world’s vision. From refusing Chinese hardware in 5G networks to weaning off of Chinese manufacturing dependence in general, the four nations have faced friction with China in some form or another. But beyond China, cybersecurity issues are rising in India, with international attacks growing more common, not to mention state-backed hacking, as reported in the Pegasus revelations.

Open standards for 5G

In partnership with industry, we are advancing the deployment of secure, open, and transparent 5G and beyond-5G networks, and working with a range of partners to foster innovation and promote trustworthy vendors and approaches such as Open-RAN. Acknowledging the role of governments in fostering an enabling environment for 5G diversification, we will work together to facilitate public-private cooperation and demonstrate in 2022 the scalability and cybersecurity of open, standards-based technology. With respect to the development of technical standards, we will establish sector-specific contact groups to promote an open, inclusive, private-sector-led, multi-stakeholder, and consensus-based approach. We will also coordinate and cooperate in multilateral standardization organizations such as the International Telecommunication Union. — India, US, Australia, and Japan’s joint statement

India has effectively banned the participation of Huawei and ZTE in the country’s 5G rollout, and encouraged telecom operators to use the Open RAN standards, which are non-proprietary, to roll out these networks. The government launched a Trusted Telecom portal, so most equipment that is installed in telecom networks now has to be approved by the government. A government-supported telecom standards group in India has supported a standard called 5Gi, which allows for higher coverage for 5G towers.

Chip shortages

We are mapping the supply chain of critical technologies and materials, including semiconductors, and affirm our positive commitment to resilient, diverse, and secure supply chains of critical technologies, recognizing the importance of government support measures and policies that are transparent and market-oriented. We are monitoring trends in the critical and emerging technologies of the future, beginning with biotechnology, and identifying related opportunities for cooperation. We are also launching today Quad Principles on Technology Design, Development, Governance, and Use that we hope will guide not only the region but the world towards responsible, open, high-standards innovation. — India, US, Australia and Japan’s joint statement

The reference to the semiconductors refers to the global chip shortage that started with the onset of the pandemic, when a sudden increase in demand for personal electronics, combined with other factors, significantly disrupted technology companies around the world. Car manufacturers in India were among those impacted by the shortage. The call-out to “secur[ing] supply chains of critical technologies” is yet another coded way of saying that the four countries need to wean themselves off of Chinese tech.

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I cover the digital content ecosystem and telecom for MediaNama.

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