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A 5G Supply Chain Diversification Strategy for the UK

  • 3 minute read
  • Published by Lucy Woods on 30 Nov 2020
  • Last modified 30 Nov 2020
30th November : The UK Government has set out a roadmap for the removal of high risk vendor equipment from the UK’s 5G networks

Alongside a strategy to diversify the country’s telecoms supply chain and ensure its future resilience, this roadmap includes:

  • The Telecoms Security Bill
    This sets out requirements on UK Operators to stop installing Huawei 5G equipment from September 2021, and not to make to make use of Huawei equipment or services in any part of their 5G network after 31 December 2027. 
    (view press release)
  • The 5G supply chain diversification strategy
    A £250m strategy for the diversification of the supply chain. The strategy has three key pillars: supporting incumbent suppliers; attracting new suppliers into the UK market; and accelerating open-interface and interoperable technologies such as Open RAN. The Government will also be seeking to lead international efforts with like-minded countries on a coordinated approach to the global issue of telecoms supply chain consolidation.

View Strategy Guidance

Key announcements with the strategy are:

  • Funding for a new Open RAN trial with Japanese telecoms vendor NEC. The NEC NeutrORAN project will be based in Wales and will aim to see live 5G Open RAN within the UK in 2021, testing neutral host solutions to deploy 5G networks in the most cost effective, innovative and secure way. This project is backed by a UK government investment of £1.6m and forms part of the 5G Testbeds and Trials Programme.
  • Establishing a National Telecoms Lab. A secure research facility that will bring together operators, existing and new suppliers, academia and the government to create representative networks in which to research and test new ways of increasing security and interoperability.  The lab will be operational in 2022, and will be a bookable, accessible research facility, allowing teams from academia, SMEs, critical industries and government to research, test and learn about security on the UK’s existing and future networks.
  • Funding the SmartRAN Open Network Innovation Centre (SONIC). Partnering with Ofcom and Digital Catapult, this will be an industry-facing testing facility to foster Open RAN in the UK helping to develop a supply chain with multiple suppliers at every stage. SONIC will be live and operational from May 2021. Specifically the Centre will:
    • Provide innovative companies with a neutral environment to come together to test and demonstrate solutions
    • Facilitate interoperability testing with organisations involved in standards development and similar - e.g. ETSI, ORAN Alliance, Telecoms Infra Project (TIP)
    • Support and link small and large companies to collaborate in a rapidly technology changing landscape
    • Operate at a pre-commercial stage at technology readiness levels 5-7

The government will continue to consult with the Telecoms Diversification Taskforce, comprising prominent industry and academic figures, led by Lord Iain Livingston (and including a number of UK5G Advisory Board members).

The government intends to “explore all opportunities to establish homegrown capability and grow the telecoms base within the wider UK tech industry”.  Key to this will be the alignment across the existing R&D ecosystem in the UK - building on DCMS’ £200m 5G Testbeds and Trials Programme, and aligning with existing projects and initiatives (including UK5G).