Japan and the U.S. have signed an agreement to develop a new communications network that is not bound by any companies’ infrastructure, as a response to China’s increasing presence in the sector.
The memorandum concerns Open Radio Access Network (Open RAN) technology that enables interoperability between multiple vendors’ equipment for cellular wireless networks. Under the agreement, the two countries will share data and cooperate in spreading the technology internationally.
Adopting Open RAN is synonymous with weakening the grip that foreign companies such as China’s Huawei Technologies have on important communications infrastructure and the flow of information, hence reducing economic security issues for countries, including Japan. Open RAN is also a catalyst to reducing risks of cuts to the global supply chain and reducing costs to consumers, owing to greater competition.
In talks with officials in Washington on Tuesday, Japan’s Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Takeaki Matsumoto confirmed the two countries’ intention to build a strong network, and signed the memorandum of cooperation between the ministry and the U.S. National Telecommunications and Information Administration.
The agreement includes commitments to exchange information on ways to test Open RAN technology and work together in promoting its uptake in South America and elsewhere.
He also indicated that discussions on the initiative would be taken further during Japan’s presidency of the Group of Seven this year.
Amid the increasingly prevalent influence of China in the telecom sector, more and more initiatives have been implemented. Earlier this year, on January 3, The U.K. and Japan also announced plans to cooperate to promote Open RAN networks, with Japanese and British companies beginning Open RAN technology sharing in 2023.
As part of plans to share information with the U.K., the Japanese government intends for the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT) to subcontract research and development on Open RAN networks to research facilities and private companies.