The UK is inviting universities and telecoms firms to apply for up to £25 million in funding to develop open and interoperable networking technologies for 5G and 6G networks.
The Future Open Networks Research Challenge is one of serval government initiatives intended to promote the UK as a leader in mobile and broadband technologies and to diversify the pool of potential equipment suppliers.
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. Operators benefit from increased innovation from a wider range of suppliers, reduced costs, and greater flexibility because the threat of vendor lock-in is reduced.
This is especially important now that communications infrastructure is viewed as a critical component economic and social strategies, as well as national security.
Ministers hope OpenRAN development will not only drive innovation in the telco sector, but also enhance network resiliency by reducing the risk of a single point of failure and help mitigate the impact of Huawei’s ban on supplying UK operators.
Meanwhile, the development and deployment of 6G is viewed as a “trillion dollar opportunity” for the mobile industry, while technical leadership is increasingly a political priority for many governments around the world.
The competition builds on the recent establishment of the UK Telecoms Innovation Network (UKTIN), while the UK has also agreed to invest £1.6 million in a joint-funded £3.6 million competition with South Korea to drive power efficiency of OpenRAN.
“The seamless connectivity and blistering speeds of 5G and then 6G will power a tech revolution which will enrich people’s lives and fire up productivity across the economy,” said digital infrastructure minister Matt Warman.
“It’s why we’re investing millions and partnering with international allies to unleash innovation and develop new ways to make these networks more secure, resilient and less reliant on a handful of suppliers.”
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