What is Future RAN: Diversifying the 5G Supply Chain?

Future RAN is an open competition, run by DCMS, that will allocate up to £30 million of R&D funding to projects that support the goals of the Government’s 5G Supply Chain Diversification Strategy. The competition is aimed at helping to incentivise industry to create new products and services to unlock the full potential of Open RAN.

Defining Open RAN

When referring to Open RAN, we mean this in its broader sense of disaggregated networks and open architectures. It is worth noting that we are also looking to support other forms of interoperability in the RAN, with a view to enabling multi-vendor architectures by default. Bidders should not feel discouraged from applying if their solution does not meet the specific definition of the Open RAN set of standards.

Background

The Diversification Strategy identified R&D as a barrier to entry for new suppliers. The Government is investing in the UK’s R&D ecosystem and capability in order to underpin the long-term success of the reforms and initiatives set out in the Diversification Strategy. This competition will support the UK’s infrastructure innovation ecosystem to play a leading role transforming the UK telecoms market, and encourage more private sector innovation to help unlock opportunities for UK businesses to play a role in the emerging global supply chain based on open standards.

This competition is part of a wide-ranging government response to the challenge of diversifying the UK’s supply market for radio equipment set out in the Diversification Strategy. The Diversification Strategy calls for the establishment of a UK wide R&D ecosystem spanning a range of areas including: the development of physical hardware; software/virtualised solutions; testing with live networks; and accelerating and pulling forward the development of interoperable technologies. There is already an ecosystem taking shape through private sector funding. However, this competition will help to harness that momentum and promote collaboration and convene the strengths of the UK’s R&D sectors to pull in the same direction and towards the goals of the diverse supply chain the UK needs to ensure its national security and resilience. Ultimately, the projects funded through this competition should help develop products that resolve the top challenges posed by new, interoperable technologies, and develop initial UK capability in the Open RAN ecosystem.

The government is already making investments to bolster this ecosystem in the form of the SmartRAN Open Network Interoperability Centre (SONIC) and the UK Telecoms Lab (UKTL). This competition will complement those initiatives by focusing more on providing support to companies developing technology rather than testbed infrastructure. Consortia are encouraged to make use of existing testbeds and other infrastructure, such as SONIC, other 5GTT funded facilities, and private sector labs and testbed infrastructure.

Objectives

  • Accelerate the development of high-performance 5G Open RAN solutions that meet UK dense urban requirements by 2025.
  • Attract new 5G RAN suppliers to conduct R&D in the UK, and foster professional collaborations between potential new entrants into the UK’s public network.
  • Contribute to the delivery of the 5G Supply Chain Diversification Strategy’s objectives of disaggregated supply chains, open interfaces by default, and security being a priority in network deployment.

 

This competition is open to applications from consortia with two or more members with funding available for activity taking place in the UK. Grants ranging from £250,000 to £5 million will be made available to individual projects lasting up to 18 months.

Scope and competition objectives

Projects applying to this competition are expected to address one or more of the priority objectives for development set out below. Achieving these objectives will catalyse the development of Open RAN solutions relevant to the UK market, with a view to accelerating the diversification of the UK’s 5G supply chain by making interoperable technologies a viable alternative to traditional deployments. Projects are not expected to target all objectives and may prioritise some over others.

1. Accelerate the development of 5G Open RAN solutions that meet UK dense urban requirements by 2025.

2. Attract new 5G RAN suppliers to conduct R&D in the UK and foster professional collaborations between potential new entrants into the UK’s public network.

3. Contribute to the delivery of the 5G Supply Chain Diversification Strategy’s objectives of disaggregated supply chains, open interfaces by default, and security being a priority in network deployment.

Ultimately, these projects should help develop products that resolve the top challenges posed by new, interoperable technologies that support open standards, high security standards and develop initial UK capability in the Open RAN ecosystem to accelerate deployment of Open RAN solutions into UK networks.

 

An online launch event was held on 13th July from 2-4pm: click here to view the recording and pitches from invited companies/organisations.