The US and partners have set out their core 6G principles, but industry is wary of over-politicization of standards processes, researcher warns.

Robert Clark, Contributing Editor, Special to Light Reading

February 28, 2024

2 Min Read
6G in the center circle with smaller circles connecting. Smaller circles include graphics such as Wi-Fi, Internet, and cloud symbols.
(Source: Kirill Ivanov/Alamy Stock Photo)

The US and partners have set out their core 6G principles – but no one seems to have noticed.

That may be because the White House statement, announced Monday, is awkwardly titled "Joint Statement Endorsing Principles for 6G: Secure, Open, and Resilient by Design."

Or it may be because it adds little to the sum of 6G knowledge.

For example, one of the six principles is "industry-led and inclusive standard setting and international collaborations."

6G should be "built on global technical standards, interfaces, and specifications that are developed through open, transparent, impartial and consensus-based decision-making processes," it asserts.

Well yeah, isn't that how mobile standards have always happened?

The revelation in the document is that the ten signatories – among them the important countries of Sweden, Finland, Korea and Japan – have now committed to "working together" on 6G.

It doesn't elaborate on how national governments will work together in an "industry-led" standards process, but let's leave that to one side.

Because although this news has gone unheralded in the countries concerned, the White House press team would be pleased to know it has not gone unnoticed in China, where it has generated a slew of stories.

'Evil intentions'

One huffy columnist suggested the exclusion of China revealed "evil intentions" that ignored the country's dominant 5G role and was in fact the antithesis of the openness the partners supposedly aspired to.

Now, while "openness" doesn't necessarily preclude China or anyone else, it's clear this exercise is targeted at the PRC.

So it's worth considering just how much political input our standards processes can take.

Tim Rühlig, a research fellow at the German Council on Foreign Relations, who has studied China's role in global standards-setting with particular reference to 5G, says he has talked to many business executives who are "fearful" of over-politicization of industry standards processes.

Interviewed on the Pekingology podcast in late 2022, he said western governments and companies needed "to adapt to some extent" to the Chinese practice of tying standards-setting to its strategic goals.

"On the other hand the technical standards system is very technologically driven and cooperative and has served us very well," he said.

But if it is over-politicized "you don't find any compromise and markets shrink," added Rühlig.

"Finding this right balance, getting the right response to China's politicization at one hand, but also being able to preserve this private-led system... that is quite tricky to do.

"Both sides need to talk to one another and find a balanced way forward."

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Asia

About the Author(s)

Robert Clark

Contributing Editor, Special to Light Reading

Robert Clark is an independent technology editor and researcher based in Hong Kong. In addition to contributing to Light Reading, he also has his own blog,  Electric Speech (http://www.electricspeech.com). 

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