UK Government launches the £80m Open Networks Ecosystem Competition

The government is today launching the Open Networks Ecosystem competition, offering up to £80m of funding to tackle key barriers to the adoption of open mobile networks.

This competition marks the next phase of the UK’s £250m Open Networks Research and Development (R&D) Fund, which itself backs the 5G Telecoms Supply Chain Diversification Strategy.

Building on the momentum made by the first phase of the programme and learning from consultation with industry leaders, this latest funding package will look to address three important themes.

First is High Density Demand (HDD). HDD sites represent 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 High Demand Density environments.

Second, Radio Frequency components. From hardware to chipsets to radio tech, the competition looks to ensure that the building blocks for our telecoms ecosystem are secure and diverse.

And the last theme that the Open Networks Ecosystem competition will address is Software. Covering the RAN Intelligent Controller (RIC), X app and R app, software components in order to make them more efficient and secure.

Department for Science, Innovation and Technology Minister of State Julia Lopez said: "This groundbreaking R&D competition marks a huge step forwards in our £250 million plan to build the more diverse, resilient and secure digital networks needed to support our economy in the 21st century. We're aiming to bring on board world-class talent to boost domestic development of next generation telecoms technology such as Open RAN, and help transform the UK into a tech and science superpower."

This follows the publication last week of the government's new Science and Technology Framework, which named future telecoms as a critical technology to the UK, alongside Artificial Intelligenve, engineering biology, semiconductors and quantum technologies.  The framework paves the way for further UK action on telecoms with an ambitious Wireless Infrastructure Strategy to be published later this year.

In 2022 Government created and launched the UK Open Networks R&D Fund, driven by the opportunity to build a more diversified telecoms infrastructure, strengthening UK networks' future resilience and security. This £250 million fund sees the government investing alongside industry and key allied countries to bring more suppliers into the market where the private sector alone has not.

There are currently multiple projects in flight, SONIC LabsNeutrORANFuture RAN competition projects, Future Open Networks Research ChallengeUK Telecoms Lab and of course the UK Telecoms Innovation Network. All of which are showing incredibly positive results.

UK leadership in telecoms diversification has been noted and appreciated globally. A number of governments are looking to tap into the UK's experience and insight while building their own investment programmes - magnifying UK influence on the world stage.

Government is investing up to £80 million in addressing the three themes of ONE. If you think your organisation can help to address any of these, we encourage you to read more about the competition here and apply by 23:59 on the 23 May 2023.

To hear more about the competition, register for the competition briefing event on 27 March here. For any queries, please email [email protected].

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