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UK government initiative will fund disruptive telecoms tech

The UK Telecoms Innovation Network Competition will provide up to £10 million of funding to research and develop technologies such as Open RAN

The UK’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has announced a competition which will provide up to £10 million of funding to research and develop disruptive network technologies such as Open RAN.

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The UK Telecoms Innovation Network Competition is part of the £250 million 5G Supply Chain Diversification Strategy that aims to create a secure and innovative telecoms supply chain environment and lower barriers for firms seeking to enter the market.

This initiative will establish the UK Telecoms Innovation Network (UKTIN) centre, which will enable emerging telecoms companies to access funding, collaborators, and testing facilities to develop new and improved technologies for the UK’s mobile and broadband networks. 

Collaboration is especially important in researching and developing Open RAN, which allows telecom companies to mix and match equipment instead of relying on a single supplier when building or maintaining networks. The push towards Open RAN has been especially motivated by the national security concerns surrounding Huawei, which was the main supplier of the UK’s 5G network equipment until it was banned from the UK’s network infrastructure in 2020.

However, this has left the UK reliant on two overseas telecoms as 5G vendors, which also poses a risk to national security, according to a 2021 report by the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee.

UKTIN will be run by a consortium of organisations with telecoms expertise that will be chosen through the competition and will act as “the first port of call for any telecoms company looking to access R&D funding and a matchmaker for firms looking to join forces on cutting-edge projects,” digital infrastructure minister Julia Lopez said on Tuesday.

“Ultimately this is about making the UK the best place in the world to develop rapid and seamless new technology for the digital networks that will power our economy well into the 21st century,” she added.

UK-based consortia with two or more members can today apply for the funding under the UKTIN competition by submitting two delivery plans: one with a maximum budget of £5 million and another for £10 million. DCMS officials will then determine which of the two bids “represents the most value for money”.

Applications can be submitted by 20 May 2022, with successful bidders being notified in July 2022. 

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