US and Japan to invest $4.5bn in next-gen 6G race with China

Nikkei -- Apr 18
U.S. President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga have agreed to jointly invest $4.5 billion for the development of next-generation communication known as 6G, or "beyond 5G."

The two countries will invest in research, development, testing, and deployment of secure networks and advanced information and communications technology, according to a fact sheet released after the two leaders met in Washington on Friday.

"The United States has committed $2.5 billion to this effort, and Japan has committed $2 billion," it said.

The call for "secure and open" 5G networks, including advancing Open Radio Access Networks (Open-RAN), reflects the leaders' intent of creating an alternative to a China-led communications network.

Open-RAN is an open-source platform where network operators can mix and match hardware from different vendors, without having to own entire systems of antennas and base stations.

As of now, Chinese companies such as Huawei Technologies and ZTE hold a roughly 40% share of base stations. European players Eriksson and Nokia, as well as South Korea's Samsung Electronics are the other heavyweights, together accounting for a 90% market share. American and Japanese enterprises lag behind.

In terms of 5G patents, U.S. leader Qualcomm owns roughly 10% -- on par with Huawei -- but Japan's top player NTT Docomo only has about 6%.

The Chinese leadership under President Xi Jinping gained confidence after catching up with advanced countries in the 5G development race. Now it is determined to repeat the success in sixth-generation technology. The new five-year plan adopted at the National People's Congress, China's parliament, in March also included the development of 6G.

Japanese government officials lament the country's late start in the 5G race. "Even if we had better technology, we couldn't win the race to win market share," one official said.

To avoid the same mistake, Tokyo is determined to play on the international field from the get-go in 6G.

- Nikkei