The UK government announced a competition initiative offering up to £80 million to tackle key barriers to adoption of open mobile networks, marking the next phase of wider R&D funding of the approach.

It stated the funding is part of a £250 million pot reserved for open networks R&D, which backs the 5G Telecoms Supply Chain Diversification Strategy it launched in 2020 in the wake of a decision to ban Chinese vendor Huawei from next-generation networks.

The Open Networks Ecosystem competition will aim to allocate the £80 million in three areas.

First are High Density Demand sites, which the government said represents the most challenging environments for the technical performance of RAN elements and systems. The aim is to develop, demonstrate and test approaches for optimising open RAN network performance in these areas.

Second, the project will target radio frequency components including hardware, chipsets and radio technology.

Finally, it will look to tackle the complex issue of software, covering development in the RAN Intelligent Controller and other software components.

Julia Lopez, Minister of State for the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, said R&D competition contributes to an aim to foster world-class talent “to boost domestic development of next-generation telecoms technology such as open RAN”.

TIP backing
One group which already benefitted from UK government funding in this area is the Telecom Infra Project (TIP), which received a share of £2.3 million to accelerate RAN Intelligence in 5G in 2021.

Commenting on the latest move, TIP executive director Kristian Toivo said the UK is heavily invested in a more open ecosystem and “blueprints to develop, demonstrate and test approaches that are commercially ready for operators is vital to the success of open networks”.

“TIP has used previous UK funding to accelerate the testing of interoperable RAN solutions and this funding is another important step towards the open goal.”

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