Government to invest £30m to develop UK O-RAN technology

£30m fund aims "to put UK at the cutting edge of developing new tech for 5G mobile networks"
Government to invest £30m to develop UK O-RAN technology

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has announced the launch of a £30m fund to support R&D projects focused on Open Radio Access Network (O-RAN) technology.

The government said the Future RAN Competition (FRANC) funding will form part of its 5G Diversification Strategy which aims to “reduce over-reliance on a small number of telecoms vendors”.

Funding will be made available to any projects that will help to fast-track the availability of viable O-RAN technology which allows equipment from multiple suppliers to be used in 5G networks. RAN (Radio Access Network) is one of the two domains which make up wireless networks, alongside the core.

According to the government, proposals could include “exploring issues around power efficiency, the management of radio wave spectrum resources, the availability of advanced software platforms, systems integration and security”.

Digital infrastructure minister Matt Warman said: “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.

“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.”

SONIC Labs facility

The launch of the FRANC fund follows the opening of the government-backed £1m SONIC Labs facilities in London and Brighton. The labs contain a real-world testing facility that “aims to bring in multiple providers to supply components for 5G radio equipment”.

Last month, Vodafone announced plans to work with Samsung and Dell to deploy O-RAN technology at 2,500 sites across Wales and the south west of England, by 2027.

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