The UK government has reportedly held talks with Japanese officials about 5G collaboration and how vendors from the country, such as NEC and Fujitsu, can provide operators with equipment following the decision to ban Huawei from next generation networks last week.
In a reversal of policy, UK mobile operators will be banned from buying telecoms equipment from Huawei by the end of the year and will also have to strip out existing 5G kit made by the company by 2027.
The government has suggested this U-turn could delay 5G rollout by up to three years and add £2 billion of additional costs to operators. Ericsson and Nokia would have a virtual duopoly in the market for radio 5G kit, leading to concerns about competition and supply.
To mitigate any further long-term impact on 5G rollout, the government is looking to diversify the potential pool of suppliers available to operators. Reports last month suggested both Japan’s NEC and South Korea’s Samsung had been identified as candidates.
Now Nikkei says British officials met their counterparts in Tokyo last Thursday to discuss potential 5G collaboration. Japan is eager for its firms to work with those in Britain and believes the UK offers a potential market for expansion.
During the 3G era, Japan was sometimes referred to as the ‘Galapagos Islands’ of mobile because of its unique handset and network ecosystem.
Although advances in smartphone technology and the standardisation of handsets globally has limited this perception in 4G and 5G, Japanese mobile operators have benefited from highly customised radio equipment from domestic vendors who have limited presences beyond their homeland.
Traditional methods of procurement have seen operators deploy integrated cell sites comprising radio, hardware, and software from a single supplier. This approach makes it difficult to mix and match innovations and poses a significant barrier to entry for other vendors.
However in the 5G era, most operators will adopt multi-vendor approaches, lowering barriers to entry for vendors beyond the ‘big three’ and opening the door for OpenRAN technologies.