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UK and Japan cooperate to reduce reliance on Nokia, Ericsson for 5G infrastructure

The two countries are hoping to reduce the global over-reliance on a small number of suppliers to build and maintain networks

The UK and Japan are to collaborate on efforts to diversify the technology used to underpin telecoms networks, in a new deal signed on Friday.

The UK minister for digital infrastructure, Julia Lopez, and Japan’s vice-minister of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, Yuji Sasaki, agreed several joint initiatives to support efforts to reduce the global over-reliance on a small number of technology suppliers.

Both nations committed to greater information sharing on their respective policy approaches, and will seek to build a more competitive and diverse global market for telecoms equipment, like 5G and future wireless networks.

They also agreed to cooperate on research and development, especially on open and interoperable network technologies like Open RAN, which enables telecom providers to mix and match technical equipment from different suppliers within a network.

The governments will also share information and facilitate joint efforts between industry and academia in both countries to develop future technologies, like 6G.

Lopez said that the partnership opens up important new avenues for both countries to work together to pursue their shared goal of a more secure, competitive, and innovative telecoms supply chain.

"It is my great pleasure to announce the telecommunications cooperation framework between Japan and the UK which will promote vendor diversification, including for 5G,” added Sasaki. “Our countries both recognise the importance of initiatives to secure telecommunication infrastructure supply chains.”

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UK has announced similar partnerships with India and the US to work closer together to achieve telecoms diversification. The UK government is hoping these initiatives will support its £250 million 5G Supply Chain Diversification Strategy, which seeks to build a more competitive and diverse telecoms supply market. This will involve supporting incumbent suppliers, attracting new suppliers into the UK market, and accelerating the development and deployment of open-interface technology like Open RAN, according to the government.

The UK invested £28 million in 2021 to trial innovative 5G cases across the country. This included 5G-powered cargo ports, as well as improving visitor experiences at places like the Eden Project or O2 Arena. Five of the projects were also going to explore the potential of Open RAN, including the testing of cameras, drones, mixed reality, and IoT sensors.

The partnership comes just over a year after a report described the UK's reliance on two 5G vendors a security risk, with Ericsson and Nokia being the only vendors left after the ban on Huawei was confirmed. The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee report, published in February, also said the UK's policy on telecoms networks suffered from a "lack of strategic foresight".

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