Government-backed UKTIN hopes to establish UK as telco leader in 5G era

Houses of Parliament
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The UK government hopes a new initiative will help telecoms infrastructure firms to access funding and resources to create innovative products and services that will boost the country’s status as a world leader in broadband and mobile technology.

The UK Telecoms Innovation Network (UKTIN) will provide firms with information about where to find funding and testing facilities, as well as provide opportunities to collaborate with others on developing and commercialising their technology at home and abroad.

While many countries are seeking to become world leaders in 5G, it is thought that the UK’s startup ecosystem and research capabilities are particular assets.

UK Telecoms Innovation Centre

A competition will invite organisations to apply for up to £10 million to help establish the centre, which will be run by a consortium of organisations with expertise in the industry.

UKTIN forms part of a wider strategy to diversify the telecoms equipment supply chain and reduce reliance on a handful of international suppliers. Traditionally the sector has been dominated by a few major vendors, most notably Ericsson, Huawei, and Nokia, but the government is keen to lower barriers to entry and boost competition and innovation.

The decision to ban Huawei from UK 5G networks has added additional impetus to these pursuits.

As much as £250 million has been committed to these efforts, with open networking technologies such as OpenRAN of particular interest. OpenRAN is a vendor-neutral approach to Radio Access Network (RAN) with standardised designs that allow a variety of firms to supply hardware and software.

“The UK Telecoms Innovation Network will be the first port of call for any telecoms company looking to access R&D funding and a matchmaker for firms looking to join forces on cutting-edge projects,” said Digital Infrastructure Minister Julia Lopez.

“Ultimately this is about making the UK the best place in the world to develop rapid and seamless new technology for the digital networks that will power our economy well into the 21st century.”

The government has also established a taskforce comprising industry and academic leaders and chaired by former BT CEO Lord Livingston to help with these efforts, while it has also encouraged other vendors, such as Samsung, NEC and Fujitsu, to increase their presence in the UK market.

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Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.