The UK government claims a new trade agreement with Japan will allow NEC to assist with the rollout and development of 5G networks in Britain and help fill the void left by the exclusion of Huawei from next generation networks.
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 itself 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.
NEC UK 5G
To mitigate any further long-term impact on 5G rollout, the government is looking to diversify the potential pool of suppliers available to operators and believes Japan could have the answers.
Earlier this year, it was reported that government officials had held talks with their Japanese counterparts about 5G collaboration and how vendors such as NEC and Fujitsu could enter the UK market.
The two countries have now entered into the UK-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA), a document which includes specific provisions for the digital and data sectors.
During a visit to Japan to sign the CEPA, International Trade Secretary Liz Truss met with NEC Chairman Nobuhiro Endo to discuss how the company could enter the UK market and cooperate on research as a result of the agreement.
This led the Department for International Trade (DIT)’s twitter account to announce that: “Japanese tech giant [NEC] to support roll out of 5G in the UK. The UK-Japan trade agreement signed today will bring two of the world’s most technologically advanced nations & democratic allies closer together.”
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.
For example, NEC recently teamed up with newcomer Rakuten Mobile on the development of a standalone-5G core.
The hope in Westminster is that NEC, which has a limited presence outside its homeland, can adapt the Radio Access Network (RAN) technology it has developed for its Japanese customers for a wider audience.
No specific detail has been made either by the government or by NEC, which has been contacted by TechRadar Pro for comment.