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2 Japan firms to join hands with Britain in new network technology

Two major Japanese telecom companies are expected to join hands with British organizations to promote a new communications network amid economic security concerns over China’s growing share of the field, a source close to the case said Saturday.

NTT Docomo Inc., Japan’s leading mobile operator, and Rakuten Mobile Inc. are likely to share information about research and development on Open RAN, or Open Radio Access Network, with British enterprises and institutions, the source added.

Open RAN has industry-wide standards enabling its interoperability with multiple vendors’ equipment for cellular wireless networks. In 2022, the Japanese and British governments made an agreement to cooperate in enhancing the technology.

By using Open RAN, many democracies countering the Communist-led government have recently been aiming to avoid a situation where control of important communications infrastructure has been ceded to foreign players, such as China’s Huawei Technologies Co.

Huawei has been a global leader in 5G telecom networks. A number of countries are worried that a dominant Chinese presence in the market could lead to information theft from Beijing and disruption to socioeconomic activity in the Indo-Pacific region.

Docomo and Rakuten were selected following their successful bids in response to an October 2022 call for proposals by the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology to subcontract research and development on Open RAN networks.

The Japanese state-run institute hopes that the two firms will help improve trust in Open RAN and contribute to energy saving while exchanging information on the progress and state of development of the technology, the source said.

In addition to Britain, Japan has entered into similar partnerships with the United States, Australia, India and Singapore. In January, Tokyo and Washington also inked a memorandum to spread Open RAN.

The British government, meanwhile, has distanced itself from Huawei after announcing in 2020 that it would no longer allow the use of the company’s technology in 5G mobile communications network due to unresolved security concerns. KyodoNews

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