Today we face the opportunities and challenges of being post-Brexit and post pandemic, the uncertainty of rising costs of capital and resources, and the reality of conflict in Europe. Various parliamentary reports have concluded that the nation cannot be reliant on just Nokia and Ericsson. While the 5G Testbeds and Trials enjoyed the opportunities of this previous period, the Open Networks Research and Development Fund is born into a time of pragmatism.
To meet these challenges, we are in a second phase with a new management team, new stuff launched, 5G testbeds and trials put to bed, and the Future Networks programmes awake and getting going. Where we are going is laid out in the UK Open Networks R&D Fund Prospectus “Accelerating the pace of telecoms innovation”, we have the Future open network Challenge, the Korea competition.
I’m delighted that the projects FRANC, SONIC and NeutroRAN are already collaborating. They have identified the need to be efficient, pragmatic and dedicated. Only if we can demonstrate real commercialism for what we are doing can we look back in three years and see the Open Networks Research and Development Fund as a success. We’ll need products, IP and revenue streams. We’ll need to demonstrate that what we’ve developed is important for the country. And we need to do it in the allotted timescale.
Part of the opportunity here, and a lesson learnt in Testbeds and Trials, is that we are no longer tied to 5G. That question of “why do you need 5G to do this” has gone away. We are now looking for the right technology to solve any given problem. This can be 4G, WiFi, LoRa, Satellite, Fixed, and of course 5G or whatever is suitable. Delivering an appropriate, resilient supply chain with secure technology is a matter of national security.
We are building a UK ecosystem, so the project’s first port of call with suppliers needs to be as close to home as possible. There is nowhere closer than the other projects in the FRANC programme. One of the things we learnt from Testbeds and Trials was that the organisations that worked well both together and with each other became more than the sum of their parts.
Key to this was UK5G and for the future it will be UKTIN. This is the organisation that is taking over from UK5G. It comprises Cambridge Wireless, Digital Catapult, the University of Bristol and West Midlands 5G. All of which have been heavily involved in UK5G. So I expect the transition to be smooth. When looking for help your first port of call should be UKTIN.
Fortunately, we go into this period of extreme uncertainty with an army of people who’ve been through the 5G testbeds and trials. They are skilled and knowledgeable in the implementation of the technology. We are ready to build..