The UK government is inviting universities and telecoms firms to apply for up to £25 million to research and develop 5G and 6G network equipment.
Called the Future Open Networks Research Challenge, the plan is to let academics and the industry conduct early-stage research into open and interoperable telecoms solutions, such as Open Radio Access Network (Open RAN), for use in 5G and future networks such as 6G.
Digital Infrastructure Minister Matt Warman comments: “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.”
MoneySavingExpert.com explains that 5G officially arrived in the UK at the end of May 2019, though only two networks – EE and Vodafone – initially offered 5G plans. But since then, all four major networks now offer 5G in selected areas, although coverage is not widespread just yet.
There have been some recent developments – such as EE upgrading its network at Wembley to provide a “5G-first” and cover the pitch for a summer season of music gigs. In addition, BT and Ericsson announced a multi-million-pound new joint partnership to provide commercial 5G private networks for the UK market. No doubt, there will be plenty of more action from other firms as things progress.
In the latest news from the government, it says as part of its £250 million Open Networks R&D Fund, it wants to speed up the development of this technology. It allows operators to mix and match equipment rather than using a single supplier when building or maintaining networks.
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The funding announcement comes as £10 million has been awarded to launch the UK Telecoms Innovation Network (UKTIN), a new body aiming to boost creativity in the country’s telecoms supply chain.
UKTIN will act as an information and ideas hub for industry and academics looking to access funding or R&D testing facilities and ways to collaborate on developing new mobile and broadband technology. Digital Catapult, CW (Cambridge Wireless), University of Bristol and West Midlands 5G are announced today as the winners of the competition to set up and oversee the network.
UKTIN is expected to be up and running in September, at which point it will begin to take over from UK5G.
On top of all that, the UK will also invest £1.6 million in a joint-funded £3.6 million competition with South Korea to collaborate on an R&D project for the development of Open RAN technology.
Consortia applying for the Future Open Networks Research Challenge should be led by universities with participation of at least one large vendor, and can also include mobile network operators and other industrial partners.
Proposals must be submitted by 3 October 2022, but consortia can submit an optional expression of interest (EOI) until 12 August 2022 to receive feedback from DCMS on their proposed research ideas. Application guidance is available here.