After China’s Huawei was added to the US’s banned 5G list, Japan was favored by the Five Eyes alliance, which includes the US, to share intelligence and promote the use of trusted suppliers. Japan is expected to participate in a U.S. multinational funding program to develop 5G telecommunications technology and strengthen supply networks to prevent the proliferation of Chinese-made equipment, as the United States aims to build a diverse coalition of Allies to counter Chinese companies.
The Multilateral Telecommunications Security Fund was mentioned in the latest National Defense Authorization Act, which was enacted in early January. Part of the bill’s description of the fund says that the secretary of state should use U.S. money to establish and maintain a common financing mechanism to ensure reliable foreign partners, such as the U.K., Canada, Australia and Japan in the Five Eyes alliance. It also suggested priority objectives, including advancing research and development of secure and reliable communications technologies, strengthening supply chains and promoting the use of trusted suppliers.
The size of the multilateral telecommunications security fund will be determined in the future, but the United States has proposed $500 million over 10 years. “There are many fundamental technologies, including 5G, where we need to work closely with Allies and like-minded trading partners,” Mark Warner, a Democrat from Virginia, said in an interview. Japan is the most important partner in these efforts, a leader in wireless innovation and a major contributor to digital infrastructure efforts throughout the Indo-Pacific region.”
The United States has argued that cooperation between the two countries is essential to building secure 5G networks, given Japan’s technological prowess. If projects using the fund go ahead, they could popularise the technology and goods of Japanese manufacturers.
With US President Joe Biden taking office and multilateral cooperation becoming the new goal of his policy, the US may want to take advantage of its strength in multilateral alliances for software development because it wants partner countries to be in the camp against China, whose main advantage of goods is its affordability. 5G features include communication speeds up to 100 times faster than the current mainstream 4G and the ability to connect many devices simultaneously. 5G applications include automotive, medical and energy generation.
But there are growing concerns that 5G could be used for espionage and cyber terrorism. As a result, the United States and the United Kingdom are weeding out technology companies like Huawei from their 5G networks.
Members of the Five Eyes alliance are actively looking for alternative suppliers to Chinese companies, and ties with Japan are being strengthened because of its strong security ties with each member and because the country is home to telecom equipment makers such as NEC and Fujitsu. At a government-level meeting of radio and telecommunications ministers last fall, Tokyo and Washington agreed to work together to develop diversified sources of supply for 5G equipment and to consider making the goods in Japan.
Last November, the British government announced it was starting trials to build a 5G communications network in partnership with Japan’s NEC. Huawei is the global market leader in base stations, including 5G, while NEC and Fujitsu have less than 1 percent of the market, according to Omdia, a British research firm.