June 18, 2024

The UK government is offering investments of up to £25m to fund research and development into 5G and future 6G network equipment.

As part of The Future Open Networks Research Challenge, universities and companies can apply for funding to develop “open and interoperable” tech for telecoms.

Matt Warman, digital infrastructure minister, said: “The seamless connectivity and blistering speeds of 5G and then 6G will power a tech revolution which will enrich people’s lives and fire up productivity across the economy.”

The funding will come from the £250m Open Networks R&D Fund. Its purpose is to increase competition in the broadband and mobile infrastructure sector.

Open RAN aims to diversify the telecommunications networks by making equipment interoperable, rather than relying on one vendor.

This follows the launch of the UK Telecoms Innovation Network (UKTIN), which will be responsible for “boosting creativity” in the telecoms supply chain and aims to be up and running in September.

It will also provide information for industry stakeholders on funding, R&D testing facilities and collaboration opportunities.

“It’s why we’re investing millions and partnering with international allies to unleash innovation and develop new ways to make these networks more secure, resilient and less reliant on a handful of suppliers,” added Warman.

Digital Catapult, CW (Cambridge Wireless), University of Bristol and West Midlands 5G (WM5G) are to set up and manage UKTIN.

The government today also announced an investment of £1.6m with the Republic of Korea in a joint-funded £3.6m competition on an R&D project to develop Open RAN technology.

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “I’m pleased to hear that WM5G and the consortium have won the tender to lead on the creation of the UK Telecoms Innovation Network – building on WM5G’s formidable track record having already helped to establish the West Midlands as the best connected 5G region in the UK.”

The funding boost is the latest initiative aimed at improving the UK’s 5G networks. Last month saw a new accelerator for 5G and IoT (internet of things) startups launch in Sunderland. In May BT and Ericsson joined forces to begin offering private 5G networks to UK businesses.

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Government offers funding of up to £25m for 5G and 6G tech