The UK government has announced a new £30m scheme to put the UK at the cutting edge of developing new tech for mobile 5G networks, as part of its 5G Diversification Strategy. The scheme will tackle the world’s over-reliance on a small number of telecoms vendors by developing new, innovative solutions in the UK. It will help build confidence in the security and resilience of new 5G technology as it delivers incredible social and economic benefits for people and businesses.
“This competition aims to get some of our most creative minds helping the UK safely and securely deliver the amazing benefits of 5G for people and businesses. It is a major part of our plans to harness the country’s tech prowess, open up the telecoms market, and create new jobs and investment as we build back better from the pandemic,” said Digital Infrastructure Minister, Matt Warman.
Innovative 5G R&D projects
The Future RAN Competition (FRANC) will fund innovative R&D projects across the UK, to speed up the adoption of Open Radio Access Network (Open RAN), which allows equipment from multiple suppliers to be used in 5G networks and will end their current dependence on one company’s technology to function.
In order to receive a share of the £30 million, tech and telecoms innovators need to submit proposals for projects that will help to fast-track the availability of viable Open RAN products and suppliers and create a stronger case for government and business investment in the technology. The government says it hopes the competition fosters research collaboration between international and new homegrown players in the UK’s public telecoms networks.
5G Diversification Strategy
The launch of FRANC follows the opening of a new government-backed £1 million high tech lab to help accelerate the adoption of Open RAN technology. Both schemes are major pillars of the government’s £250 million 5G Diversification Strategy, which was published alongside a timetable for the removal of Huawei equipment from 5G networks.
The 5G Diversification Strategy aims to build a more secure and innovative telecoms supply chain which is fit for the future, less reliant on a small number of multinational suppliers and more accessible for new market entrants. This will help the UK capitalise on 5G’s potential to improve people’s lives with lightning fast connectivity and revolutionary data capacity.
“Today’s announcement is another positive step in driving forward the UK’s telecoms diversification agenda, with concrete action to help support the development of innovative new products for our mobile network infrastructure. It is a clear signal that the UK has a world-leading market in which to innovate and invest, as well as spurring the opportunity for UK tech companies, SMEs and academia to take advantage of this growing global market,” said Matthew Evans, Director of Markets, techUK.
Evans continued: “We find ourselves at the start of a challenging period of time, with pressure on rolling out 5G at pace whilst ensuring our networks are resilient, secure and future proof. That’s why it’s important that government bring forward further plans on supporting open and disaggregated networks, from technical standards to a long term R&D roadmap.”
The deadline for applications for the FRANC is 27 August 2021, with winning projects expected to be announced in the autumn.