Reducing dependency on a small number of vendors in the telecoms industry is critical to national security. It also fosters innovation and competition in the telecoms market. DCMS is undertaking urgent and important work to diversify the telecoms supply chain.
While our decision to combat the risks arising from high risk vendors and to remove Huawei from our public 5G networks by 2027 was the right one, it brings with it a resilience risk as we become more dependent on our remaining suppliers. This is of particular concern in the fixed networks and mobile radio access networks at the heart of our digital connectivity.
Our 5G Supply Chain Diversification Strategy published on 30 November sets out the first steps we are taking towards mitigating this risk. We want to see a more dynamic and competitive supply market for telecoms. Our approach is centred on three key pillars:
- supporting incumbent suppliers to ensure that they can continue to supply into the UK market;
- attracting new suppliers;
- and accelerating the development and deployment of open and interoperable technologies, including but by no means limited to, OpenRAN.
Furthermore, we will champion UK capability within the supply chain and seek to grow it where we can.
The strategy aims to deliver long-term change in the 5G supply chain and pave the way for a more vibrant supply market. This will not only improve the resilience of our critical national infrastructure, but deliver benefits to consumers and the wider economy through increased competition and innovation.
As a first step towards delivering this vision, the Government has committed an initial £250 million to kick-off work on our key priorities. This allows us to take forward specific measures urgently, such as establishing a world-class National Telecoms Lab; increasing UK influence in standards and beginning to dismantle the key barriers to diversification. We have also partnered with NEC to launch the NeutrORAN testbed and with Ofcom and Digital Catapult to fund SONIC (SmartRAN Open Network Innovation Centre). But this is only the beginning - now we need to design targeted interventions that deliver our long-term vision of an open, diverse and innovative market.
To guide us through this next phase of work, we have established the Telecoms Diversification Taskforce. This comprises a range of figures from industry and academia. These include UK5G’s own Ros Singleton and Professor Dimitra Simeonidou, and is headed by Lord Ian Livingston. They are joined by leading industry figures such as Scott Petty, CTO of Vodafone, and Clive Shelley, CEO of Openreach, as well as key players in the security and standards spheres. However, the Taskforce is just one way for us to get industry’s views. As we progress this work, we want to continue to engage widely across UK industry - including through the UK5G network - to understand both the challenges and opportunities better. Taking a balanced approach, and utilising the experience and wisdom of our world-beating telecoms sector, we will ensure the health, diversity and resilience of our telecoms supply chain for years to come.
This article was originally posted in the Innovation Briefing
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