Let’s be FRANC, the UK wants to be a 5G OpenRAN pioneer

Let’s be FRANC, the UK wants to be a 5G OpenRAN pioneer
Ryan is an editor at TechForge Media with over a decade of experience covering the latest technology and interviewing leading industry figures. He can often be sighted at tech conferences with a strong coffee in one hand and a laptop in the other. If it's geeky, he’s probably into it. Find him on Twitter: @Gadget_Ry

The UK Government has launched a £30 million scheme to cement the country’s leadership in developing the next generation of 5G networks.

FRANC (Future RAN Competition) will help to fund innovative R&D projects across the UK to help speed up the adoption of OpenRAN (Open Radio Access Network) technology. Projects vying to claim a share of the funding are encouraged to make proposals that will help to fast-track viable solutions and encourage further business and government investment.

Example proposals include solutions for improving power efficiency, the management of radio wave ‘spectrum’ resources, the availability of advanced software platforms, systems integration, and security.

Matt Warman, Digital Infrastructure Minister, 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.”

OpenRAN helps to diversify the supply chain through enabling smaller vendors to deliver interoperable and standards-based products.

Matthew Evans, Director of Markets, techUK, said:

“Today’s announcement is another positive step in driving forward the UK’s telecoms diversification agenda, with concrete action to help support the development of innovative new products for our mobile network infrastructure. It is a clear signal that the UK has a world-leading market in which to innovate and invest, as well as spurring the opportunity for UK tech companies, SMEs, and academia to take advantage of this growing global market.

We find ourselves at the start of a challenging period of time, with pressure on rolling out 5G at pace whilst ensuring our networks are resilient, secure, and future-proof. That’s why it’s important that government brings forward further plans on supporting open and disaggregated networks, from technical standards to a long term R&D roadmap.”

The UK has been particularly supportive of OpenRAN in the fallout of its decision to exile Huawei from its networks that was both costly and set back the country’s early leadership in the European rollout of 5G.

FRANC is part of a £250 million 5G Diversification Strategy that was published alongside a timetable for removing Huawei’s equipment from 5G networks.

Another pillar of the strategy is last week’s launch of £1 million government-backed OpenRAN labs called SONIC (SmartRAN Open Network Interoperability Centre) in London and Brighton.

Simon Blagden, former non-executive chair of Fujitsu UK, has been appointed today as the chair of the new Telecoms Supply Chain Diversification Advisory Council that will succeed the Telecoms Diversification Taskforce.

“I am greatly enthused to be joining as Chair of the new Telecoms Supply Chain Diversification Advisory Council,” says Blagden. “I am looking forward to working with the Minister, Advisory Council members and the team at DCMS to contribute towards this important agenda.”

The deadline for FRANC applications is 27 August 202. Winning projects are expected to be announced in the autumn. Application forms can be found here.

(Photo by Ian Taylor on Unsplash)

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