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Future Proof UK Mobile Network

The UK government has announced an £88 million investment in innovative open 5G connectivity solutions across the country. This funding has been awarded to 19 projects through the Open Networks Ecosystem (ONE) competition, which aims to demonstrate the feasibility and reliability of technology.

Iconic sporting venues and tourism hotspots across the UK will see trials of new mobile tech designed to increase the resilience and preparation for the future proof of UK mobile network and ensure we are not overly reliant on any one form of technology. The 19 successful projects in the ONE Competition will demonstrate the reliability and feasibility of Open Radio Access Network (RAN) technologies and showcase their role in delivering resilient and future-proofed connectivity to UK citizens and businesses.

The ONE competition helps deliver on the UK’s ambition to be a global leader in telecoms research and development, through investment in cutting-edge open hardware and software. The funding will enable the successful projects to develop and demonstrate a range of innovative technological solutions to improve connectivity in places with some of the biggest demand on mobile services. This includes busy locations like cities, airports, stadiums, or large venues where many people use their devices simultaneously, posing a challenge for mobile networks to handle high levels of traffic.

Open RAN enables different companies’ technology to work together, which can make the network better and more flexible. The projects will initiate trials of open 5G networks across the country, in major urban centres in Glasgow, Cambridge, Liverpool, Bath, and the City of London, iconic sports and entertainment venues, and the historic seaside resorts of Blackpool and Worthing.

Minister for Data and Digital Infrastructure Sir John Whittingdale said, "Whether you’re in a busy city centre or a rural village, a fast and reliable mobile connection is vital to staying in touch, accessing services and doing business. In order to secure that, we need to embrace a diverse and secure range of technology that will underpin the network."

The projects are part of the government’s Open Networks Research and Development Fund, dedicated to building secure and resilient communications infrastructure and enhancing competition and innovation within the 5G telecoms supply chain. Major mobile network operators - BT/EE, Three UK, Virgin Media O2, and Vodafone have endorsed the UK’s Open RAN Principles.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) reaffirms the ambition for 35% of the UK’s network traffic to pass through open and interoperable Radio Access Network (RAN) technologies by 2030. Hamish MacLeod, Chief Executive of Mobile UK, said, "The development of open and interoperable RAN solutions is important to the UK’s mobile industry."

Nick Johnson, Head of UK Telecoms Innovation Network (UKTIN) said, "Building a diversified telecoms infrastructure in the UK is crucial to unlocking opportunities for growth and creating a prosperous future. The projects announced today, in support of that mission, will both deliver exciting innovations and consider how to overcome some of the tricky but important challenges to wide-scale deployments."

This announcement coincides with Vodafone’s recent start of Open RAN equipment installation at 2,500 sites in Wales and the South-West of England. The Open Networks Ecosystem (ONE) competition is part of the government’s £250 million 5G Telecoms Supply Chain Diversification Strategy, fostering telecoms R&D projects including Future RAN Competition (FRANC), Future Open Networks Research Challenge, and entities like SmartRAN Open Network Interoperability Centre.

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