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When Japan invented the world’s first camera-equipped mobile phone two decades ago, it signaled an early but crucial step in the transformation of the phone into a sophisticated high-speed wireless information terminal.

Two decades later, as the world develops 5G networks that are tens of thousands of times faster, the nation that pioneered many of these technologies has been almost entirely absent. Having lost the lead in consumer-facing handsets after missing the shift to smartphones, Japanese brands have also fallen behind Nokia Oyj, Ericsson AB and above all Huawei Technologies Co. in the buildout of 5G infrastructure.

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