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Diversifying Telecoms: Open Networks R&D Fund announcement

The Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has revealed an update as part of its strategy to diversify the 5G telecoms supply chain, and details of how universities and telecoms firms can apply for up to £25 million to research and develop the next generation of 5G and 6G network equipment. 

The Future Open Networks Research Challenge will enable academics and the industry to conduct early-stage research into open and interoperable telecoms solutions, such as Open RAN, for use in 5G and future networks. The Challenge is one of several initiatives as part of the DCMS Open Networks Research and Development Fund, to accelerate the development and deployment of open interface architectures, such as Open RAN.

Central to the Open Networks R&D Fund is government's ambition to:

  • accelerate open-interface products and solutions - ensuring they are truly interoperable, performant, and sustainable – to support its long-term vision for a more open and innovative telecoms market.
  • incentivise and derisk accelerated deployment in the UK - to encourage and accelerate network operators to adopt and deploy open network solutions.
  • develop an internationally recognised UK telecoms ecosystem - positioning the UK as a leading global market and focal point for research into open network technology.

Running until March 2025, each funded activity focuses on "different aspects of the technology that underpin open networking and will help the telecoms sector make the transition quickly and securely". DCMS goes on to say that the Open Networks R&D Fund will "support the development of the ecosystem, allowing for room to manoeuvre and continue to seek new options to support businesses and researchers as the market develops."

Further details of the planned activity can be found below. 

Evolving the innovation ecosystem

Accelerating maturity

International research and development

Developing facilities and demonstration capabilities

Driving adoption

More details on UK/Republic of Korea competition

Up to £1.6 million is available to fund a single UK-based consortium, which will collaborate with a ROK-funded consortium in order to:

  • allow UK and ROK companies and research organisations to collaborate on Open RAN R&D and develop new products and solutions for the market
  • accelerate the development of power-efficient technologies, products and solutions for Open RAN systems
  • ​conduct a joint assessment of the overall power budget of open RAN base stations vs traditional base stations, in order to determine the critical items and make sure any progress impacts meaningfully on the consumption (assessment should consider industry standard approaches such as those set by the Next Generation Mobile Networks Alliance — products and/or solutions developed in the collaboration should match or exceed the performance of those provided by the market by the end of the collaboration)
  • move power efficiency of Open RAN solutions closer to the benchmark set by incumbents by the end of the collaboration

The successful project will run until 31 March 2024, and is a joint-funded £3.6 million competition with the Republic of Korea. 

Deadline for receipt of applications: 20 September 2022 at noon - and there is a briefing event on 3 August

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