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March 6, 2020

Japan’s long-standing partnership with ITU

By Malcolm Johnson, ITU Deputy Secretary-General

*The following article is adapted from my prepared remarks to be delivered earlier this week at an ITU event in Tokyo, Japan, but was cancelled due to Covid-19.

Japan has been a member of ITU from its earliest days, having joined the Union in 1879. The country has long been a global source of innovation and a leader in important and emerging areas of ITU’s work, from space to artificial intelligence to 5G.

5G networks are starting to roll out around the world. Here in Japan, NTT Docomo, KDDI and Softbank will launch 5G commercial services in the spring. Asia’s mobile operators are set to invest $370 billion building-out new 5G networks between 2018 and 2025. It is forecast that 5G will contribute almost $900 billion to the region’s economy over the next 15 years.

The ITU World Radiocommunication Conference 2019 (WRC-19) held in Sharm El-Sheikh in Egypt from 28 October to 22 November 2019 identified a total of 17.25 GHz of additional spectrum for International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT) in frequencies between 24 GHz and 71 GHz. That is more than 8 times more spectrum for IMT than was identified for IMT before WRC-19, and it will facilitate the deployment of 5G mobile networks worldwide.

It is worth noting that 86 per cent of this additional spectrum was harmonized on a global basis. WRC-19 also took steps to protect Earth‑exploration satellite service applications. Meteorology, climatology, astronomy and space‑based monitoring of our planet need to be protected from harmful radio‑frequency interference in the age of climate change.

Climate change is a topic very close to my heart. I was pleased to open the first International Symposium organized by ITU on “ICTs and Climate Change” in Kyoto in April 2008, the year the limitations on greenhouse-gas emissions agreed under the Kyoto Protocol came into effect.

The report of that symposium resulted in the establishment of the Focus Group on ICT and Climate Change and the repositioning of ITU-T Study Group 5 to focus on studies related to climate change, including energy conservation and e-waste, and the wider environmental issues that this group, and now other areas of ITU, address.

Most recently, ITU-T SG5 has been working to develop a set of international standards (ITU-T Recommendations) that assess the environmental impacts of 5G systems, including the electromagnetic compatibility aspects, the electromagnetic fields aspects, energy efficiency in 5G systems and their resistibility to lightning and power fault events.

ITU has been working with the industry to minimize the digital ecosystem’s growing carbon footprint. A new ITU standard highlights that compliance with the Paris Agreement will require the ICT industry to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45 per cent from 2020 to 2030.

ITU has also established a new Focus Group to study environmental efficiency in the age of AI. This group will provide a global platform to raise awareness of the environmental impacts of artificial intelligence and other frontier technologies, while addressing these technologies’ ability to contribute to the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, the objectives of the Paris Agreement and the protection of biodiversity.

My first time in Japan was exactly 50 years ago for the 1970 Osaka Expo, a landmark event that symbolized Japan’s rapid postwar economic development. In 2025, the World Expo will return to Osaka and Japan. Under the theme “Designing Future Society for Our Lives”, this event promises to showcase exciting emerging technologies, including AI, and how these technologies can help spur inclusive and sustainable economic growth.

[Japan] has long been a global source of innovation and a leader in important and emerging areas of ITU’s work, from space to artificial intelligence to 5G.

2025 is the year Japan aims for the first fully autonomous vehicles to go on sale.

ITU’s technical standardization work is more relevant to the automotive industry than ever. And that is why automotive industry players such as Volkswagen Group, Hyundai, China’s Telematics Industry Application Alliance, Bosch, BlackBerry, Tata Communications, Denso Corporation and Mitsubishi Electric have joined ITU in recent years. These players are helping to shape international standards that protect and encourage key investments, improve road safety and help build intelligent transport systems.

ITU established a Focus Group on AI for autonomous and assisted driving in October to support standardisation activities of AI evaluation in autonomous and assisted driving. The work of this group will be essential to build the global public trust required for widespread deployment of AI on our roads.

I come here today to reaffirm the strong and enduring bond between ITU and Japan ─ and to call on all Japanese stakeholders to join us, including universities and small and medium-sized enterprises. Since 1959, Japan has been elected to the ITU Council on every occasion and has committed itself to supporting ITU’s role. Being one of our Member States with the highest number of contributory units is just one example of this commitment.

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Japan’s long-standing partnership with ITU

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