Japan To Assist India With 5G Technology To Counter China’s Mounting Dominance

Amid rising security concerns from Chinese technology, India and Japan will be cooperating on the telecommunications and digital infrastructure front to counter Beijing,  Japanese officials have told Nikkei Asia.

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Japanese Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Ryota Takeda and India’s IT and Telecommunications minister Ravi Shankar Prasad will sign a comprehensive agreement on information and communication, which involves projects worth hundreds of millions of dollars, at a virtual meeting in December.

The officials have said the two governments will support the introduction of 5G wireless networks and India will receive submarine fiber-optic cables and other technologies from Japanese companies. According to the news website, Japan will receive cooperation from India in nurturing professionals well versed in digital technology.

The increased cooperation between India and Japan comes in the backdrop of rising tensions with China. Since the violent face-off between Indian and Chinese troops in Eastern Ladakh on 15 June, New Delhi has banned hundreds of Chinese mobile apps citing security concerns. Huawei’s 5G plans have also witnessed a rollback.

Earlier this year, India’s information and technology ministry had given permission to allot 5G spectrum on a trial basis, but after India’s souring of ties with China due to the border stand-off, ministry sources said that “Huawei is out of all, no 5G trial will be for Huawei”. The trials will be delayed further as Home Ministry is yet to issue security clearance for the same, according to a report in The Economic Times.

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The upcoming deal between India and Japan will include the use of 5G technologies and the development and international standardization of 6G technologies, which is planned to be put into practical use in the 2030s.

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According to media reports, Rakuten, one of Japan’s electronic commerce and online retailing companies, is planning to export a cloud-based mobile network that will reduce the cost of installation and operation. The company has already opened a laboratory in the southern Indian city of Bengaluru to sell the technology to local carriers.

Tokyo had banned the use of Huawei equipment in rolling out 5G technology in December 2018. Rakuten, NTT Docomo, KDDI Corp, and Softbank Corp have already launched 5G internet mobile services.

As part of the deal, Indian orders for laying an undersea fiber-optic cable will support Japanese companies. India is laying an undersea cable to connect mainland India with the Lakshadweep islands, located southwest of the subcontinent.

Reports suggest, NEC Corporation, a Japanese multinational IT and electronics company, is about to complete the construction of a submarine cable for the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and will seek the two governments’ support to secure the new order.

In October, after a meeting of the foreign ministers of the two countries in Tokyo, the two sides firmed up the plan that will promote cooperation in 5G technology, internet of things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and key areas of cyberspace.

In order to counter China, Japan has agreed to be the lead partner in the connectivity pillar of the Indo-Pacific Oceans’ Initiative (IPOI), an India-backed framework aimed at making meaningful efforts to create a safe and secure maritime domain in the Indo-Pacific region.

India-US Cooperation On 5G

India has also been looking for 5G cooperation with the US. In October, Greg Kalbaugh, deputy undersecretary for policy at the US’ International Trade Administration, earlier said that he sees tremendous opportunities to increase collaboration between American and Indian companies as the world advances towards 5G.

In July, Reliance Industries Ltd chairman Mukesh Ambani had claimed that they have developed a complete fifth-generation wireless network solution from scratch.

The “100% homegrown technology” will be ready for trials as soon as the permissions are available and can be used next year, Ambani had said, adding that the telecom major would soon be ready to export 5G solutions. With US-based companies investing in Reliance, the cooperation on 5G technology is likely to increase.

Huawei Concerns

The use of Chinese 5G technology had raised espionage concerns among the countries. The annual report of the US Secretary of Defense to the Congress titled, ‘Military and Security Developments involving the People’s Republic of China 2019″, stated that Article 7 of China’s law protects individuals and organizations that support, assist and cooperate with intelligence work, which has direct security implications.

The Indian government has also traced the links between Chinese companies working in the country and the People’s Liberation Army. Tech giant Huawei is among those “providing assistance, and cooperating in China’s national intelligence work”.