The United States, Australia, India, and Japan may join forces to promote the use of “trusted vendors” for 5G technology as part of their strategic cooperation under the framework of the Quadrilateral coalition.
The Quadrilateral coalition – a.k.a. the Quad coalition – is mainly focused on the Indo-Pacific region.
This comes just after India’s private telecom operators excluded Chinese vendors Huawei and ZTE from their 5G trial plans. The Indian government, however, has not taken a final decision, resulting in a delay in the trials.
Indian telcos are currently looking at reducing dependence on Chinese vendors after the Indian government banned these companies from providing gear to state-run telecom operators BSNL and MTNL.
Senior officials from the Ministry of External Affairs of India, Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade of Australia, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan and Department of State of the United States of America met through a video conference on Friday last week for consultations on regional and global issues of common interest.
“Noting the importance of digital connectivity and secure networks, the officials discussed ways to promote the use of trusted vendors, particularly for fifth generation (5G) networks,” the US government said in a statement after the meeting.
These officials, as per the official statement, explored ways to enhance coordination on counterterrorism, maritime security, cyber security, and regional connectivity.
Local media reports said that India is already in discussions with Japan for the development of 5G technology.
Indian telecom equipment companies like Sterlite and IT service provider Tech Mahindra are already working with Japan’s Rakuten to help Indian telcos migrate to 5G using non-Chinese technology.
A PTI report said that the issue of 5G technology is likely to be discussed at a meeting of foreign ministers of the Quad member countries in Tokyo next month.
The US government has been making efforts to pressure allies and friendly countries to bar the Chinese telecom gear maker Huawei.
The US recently said that it is deepening its trade relationship with India in the digital era and there is a “flourishing of collaboration and innovation” for both hardware components and software. Both India and the US had last year discussed the issue of “risks” posed by Chinese communication networks at a high-level meeting.
While speaking at a recent industry event FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said both India and US need to quickly move together on 5G. He added that “allies in the US and India” can work together and make security decisions based on their shared principles amid the risks posed by Chinese equipment makers.
Earlier this year, Pai had said India and the US need to quickly move together on 5G. In February, he held bilateral meetings with Telecom Regulatory Authority of India chairman RS Sharma and telecom secretary Anshu Prakash, discussing a variety of spectrum issues, including 5G.
“Focusing too heavily on short-term considerations could result in choices that are penny wise, but pound foolish…we should avoid security risks in the first place,” he was quoted as saying by the Economic Times.
Pai had also urged global telecom carriers to follow India’s Reliance Jio’s strategy to use only “trusted vendors” in their 5G deployments, besides exploring developing home-grown 5G solutions.
The US government has also listed the Mukesh Ambani-led telecom operator among global telcos that are becoming “clean telcos”.