The UK, Japan to cooperate on Open RAN

Firms from Japan and the U.K. are expected to begin Open RAN technology sharing this year

The U.K. and Japan announced plans to cooperate to promote Open RAN networks amid the increasing presence of Chinese vendors in the telecom sector, The Japan Times reported, citing sources with knowledge of the matter.

According to the sources, Japanese and British companies are expected to begin Open RAN technology sharing in 2023. Some Japanese technology firms working on Open RAN include NEC and NTT Docomo.

The report also noted that Japan has already entered similar partnerships with the United States, Australia and India in May and with Singapore in July.

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.

The NICT has already finished its recruitment process, and the successful contractors will be announced in 2023, according to the report.

Japan and Britain have recently announced a digital partnership that includes commitments to cooperate in diversifying telecoms, ensuring stable supplies of semiconductors and toward responsible development and application of artificial intelligence.

Under the terms of this partnership, the two countries will develop joint research and development initiatives to share expertise about these vital technologies.

“The U.K. and Japan will strengthen foundations for trade and investment between their tech economies and make it easier for businesses to operate in both countries by aligning approaches to digital regulation. Improving cyber resilience is a priority for the partnership, which will see the U.K and Japan promote initiatives to standardize the security of internet-connected products and apps and address the risks of digital services in supply chains,” the U.K. government said.

The U.K. government has previously announced a joint ambition with local mobile network operators to increase the share of open and interoperable equipment in U.K. networks to 35% by 2030. The government noted that Vodafone and Telefonica are currently deploying their first live O-RAN sites using new market entrants.

In December, the governments of Australia, Canada and the United States have backed guidelines for telecoms companies, developed by the U.K., designed to build a more competitive and secure supply of equipment for telecoms networks, including for 5G and 6G.

The U.K. government noted that the three nations are the first to endorse the U.K.’s principles for the development of Open RAN.

The four principles previously outlined by the U.K. government are:

Open disaggregation, allowing elements of the RAN to be sourced from different suppliers.

Standards-based compliance, allowing all suppliers to test solutions against standards in an open, neutral environment.

Demonstrated interoperability, ensuring disaggregated elements work together as a fully functional system.

Implementation neutrality, allowing suppliers to innovate and differentiate on the features and performance of their products.