UK launches £30m competition to support OpenRAN projects

(Image credit: Huawei)

The government is inviting the tech and telecoms industry to submit proposals for a share of £30 million funding earmarked for projects that will accelerate the availability of commercial OpenRAN products and services across the UK.

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.

OpenRAN lab

The government views OpenRAN as a way to reduce the industry’s dependency on RAN technology from major vendors, increasing choice and innovation. This is especially important after Huawei was banned from the UK’s rollout of 5G last year.

There are several industry-led initiatives to test and commercialise OpenRAN and the government hopes its Future RAN Competition (FRANC) will stimulate the UK ecosystem. It says funding could b e provided for projects that focus on poiwer efficiency, spectrum management, software, system integration and security.

“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,” said Digital Infrastructure Minister Matt Warman. “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.”

In a separate development, the government has appointed the former non-executive chair of Fujitsu UK Simon Blagden as the chair of the new Telecoms Supply Chain Diversification Advisory Council.

This independent body which will be responsible for delivering the recommendations of the Telecoms Diversification Taskforce which published its final report in April. One of its recommendations with the creator of an external organisation to manage the delivery of this diversification strategy.

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.