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Innovation Briefing Issue 7 | News

  • 10 minute read
  • Published by Crispin Moller on 24 Nov 2021
  • Last modified 23 Nov 2021
Overview of the latest news articles from issue 7 of the IB.

Dumb and dumber pipes

Telecoms is weary of being called a ‘dumb pipe’, but using other people’s even dumber pipes may greatly speed up the roll out of critical infrastructure. It is estimated that four fifths of the cost of deploying new infrastructure is incurred by civil works. DCMS has committed £4 million to finding ways to use the nation’s water pipes to carry fibre optic cables. 5G needs fibre for backhaul, and the Government hopes any lessons can feed into Project Gibabit, and improve rural 4G coverage. Sending a cable down a pipe may mean the road doesn’t have to be lifted. The Fibre in Water competition is being run by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport in partnership with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Geospatial Commission.


Cyrcle Phone

Green phone is any colour you want

Circular 4G handset “The Cyrcle Phone” is designed to stand out from the crowd with its round screen but also combines two important new aspects which have become relevant to every day life. Elements of the design are open source and the project is designed to create the least possible waste. The case is biodegradable and the design for it freely available so that you can 3D print your own case.

The Cyrcle Phone features two headphone jacks, two SIM card slots. A temperature sensor and comes unlocked. It’s $699 (£520) through the Kickstarter campaign and will be priced at $999 (£740) when it ships in September 2022

See for more information

Open RAN Pause

Nokia, the first major vendor to join the Open RAN industry body the O-RAN Alliance has suspended its technical work with the group. The Alliance creates specifications for open interfaces for equipment that implements 4G and 5G mobile network standards. Nokia is concerned that three Chinese manufacturers that contribute to the work Kindroid, Phytium and Inspur have been placed on the US Commerce Department’s Entity List because of security risks. Nokia has expressed concern that 44 contributors to the Alliance are Chinese government owned or controlled. All receive code developed collectively by the Alliance.

Interest in Open RAN has grown as a way both to diversify the market from the three giant vertically-integrated telecoms suppliers that dominate the equipment market: Nokia, Ericsson and Huawei. Open RAN equipment will run on general-purpose vendor-neutral hardware.

The Alliance was created in 2018. A Nokia spokesperson described the move as a “pause” and stressed that “Nokia’s commitment to ORAN and the O-RAN Alliance, of which we were the first major vendor to join, remains strong,” in a statement.

The alliance stated that, “While it is up to each O-RAN participant to make their own evaluation of these changes, O-RAN is optimistic that the changes will address the concerns and facilitate O-RAN’s mission.”

Orange, Deutsche Telekom, Telefónica and Vodafone signed an agreement vowing to deploy Open RAN equipment on their networks. Vodafone plans to deploy the new standard in 2,5000 sites in the UK, with Samsung and NEC supplying the radio portion.

Plexal provides SME insight through Innovation consultancy

Plexal is working with DCMS to support diversification of the UK’s telecoms market and stimulate creation of products and services from SMEs and startups.

Based at East Here the technology hub at the Olympic site in London’s East End, the Pexal team builds connections between industry, academia, investors, startups and scaleups. It has worked with leaders from the telecoms market to assess where there could be opportunities for SMEs to provide products or services.  It then identified SMEs that will take part in a 12-week sprint to develop robust business cases, technology roadmaps and investment plans. The aim is to create a diverse commercial ecosystem for private 5G networks that enables large and small vendors to play a role.

The SMEs will work with Plexal, the government and industry to develop opportunities and overcome barriers that exist for startups and SMEs to play an active role in the telecoms market. These barriers could include making sure the products are interoperable and have robust cybersecurity built in.

Plexal is looking at current and future 5G private networks the two categories of fully private, where the value outcome remains isolated from the public and private today, but will need to integrate to the public network to realise all the benefits

The sprint will support the UK government’s aim of developing a domestic capability for 5G and ensuring the telecoms market includes a diverse range of vendors – including a larger number of small and medium-sized companies.

Commenting on the innovation challenge, Andrew Roughan, Plexal ‘s managing director, said “We think there’s a big opportunity to understand and develop the role of SMEs in the telecoms market.”

To find out more about Plexal and to sign up for its programmes see www.plexal.com

aql Starlink Earth station

Starlink Makes Landfall

Elon Musk’s Starlink constellation has lit a third UK ground station in the space race to bring next generation satellite broadband to Britain.

The low earth orbit (LEO) satellites are visible as a train of bright moving lights, and operate much at a much lower altitude than older, geostationary satellites, making them more viable for both internet broadband. This will be a boon for rural areas, both as a retail offering and for backhaul between mobile base stations.

A new ground station on the Isle of Man, which links satellites in orbit to internet data centers on Earth, was confirmed by the Starlink.sx website and local sources. Starlink has stations in Buckinghamshire and Cornwall but this brings the network closer to the rural North, Wales and Scotland.51 further Starlink satellites were launched last month, bringing the total to almost 1,500. Ultimately 12,000 will be operational according to Starlink, to the dismay of astronomers. Blue Origin, the company founded by Musk’s rival Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com, plans over 3,000. OneWeb, in which the UK has. stake, has 600 planned.

Supply Chain CRUNCH

The impact of the global semiconductor shortage on telecoms has been examined by STL Partners. The effect of the chip shortage on the automotive sector has already been widely reported, but semiconductors have even greater impact on telecommunications infrastructure supply chains; while auto accounts for 10 per cent of global production, fully 50 per cent is acquired for ICT infrastructure – networks and datacentres – and mobile phones.

“The ongoing semiconductor supply crunch has the potential to disrupt inventories for production of smartphones, routers and IoT devices, which in turn could impact device sales and service revenues for telecoms operators,” STL reports.

The shortages are particularly acute in supply chains needing analog/radio frequency (RF) and mixed signal (SoC) semiconductors, as well as power management integrated chips (PMIC), and display driver integrated chips (DDIC)/ the latter govern the flow of power in smartphones and other wearables.

“In terms of power demands, the shift to 5G brings with it large increases in data and computing power, and with it an increase (densification) in base station antenna across multiple locations requiring connectivity, power and sensors,” analysts at STL conclude.

For example, Infineon estimates that the chip density of a 5G massive MIMO antenna is around fourfold, from $25 to $100 per radio board.

Delays of over a year on delivery of broadband routers were reported by Bloomberg earlier in 2021.

Wireless Infrastructure Strategy: Call for Evidence

The wireless industry is being asked to help shape the future. Businesses who work with and use radio technologies are being asked to provide DCMS with their views in a consultation which closes on November 25th.

The plan to develop a national infrastructure strategy was announced by DCMS in the summer. Julia Lopez, Minister for Media, Data, and Digital Infrastructure told a techUK event that the strategy will “set out the government’s long-term ambition for the development, deployment and the adoption of 5G in future wireless networks in the UK. To ensure we can deliver world-class wireless connectivity to the UK, driving growth and innovation in every part of our country.”

The aim of the strategy is to better understand from industry, consumers and businesses, what wireless connectivity the UK is going to  ensure the UK is positioned to maximise the potential of advanced wireless networks by 2030, and understanding of the UK’s future wireless connectivity needs, to what extent these needs will be met over the next decade and how the government can best support investment, competition, innovation and adoption of wireless infrastructure, including 6G and future networks, through the regulatory and policy framework. This research works in concert with work Ofcom has done as a review of the market.

Lopez told the audience “We want to hear from as many people in organizations as possible. And then use those responses to help us shape the wireless infrastructure strategy. I’d be really grateful if all of you could put forward a response to that.”

The strategy will set out a clear roadmap for how wireless infrastructure can play a vital role in the UK’s economy by 2030, ensuring that the future connectivity needs of the UK have been accounted for and a clear assessment of how they will be met. Government will also determine what role it should play in supporting investment in wireless infrastructure and subsequently introduce a new policy framework on how it will be achieved.  

To respond to the call for evidence click here...

Worcestershire Tech Accelerator launches Incubator

BetaDen, the Tech accelerator  based in Worcestershire has taken in its first cohort of companies to be schooled through the use of the Malvern Hills Science Park 5G testbed. This reflects the shift the organisation has seen towards applications from businesses developing technology and services powering connected technologies over recent years.

One of the cohort companies, Jet Engineering is part of the Testbeds and Trials 5G Connected Cowes project and is working with BetaDen on its 5G buoys for connected maritime applications

“Over 75 per cent of our current cohort are developing technologies that either directly use or enable other technologies to benefit from Internet of Things applications,” explains Linda Smith, founder and CEO of BetaDen”.

Areas the accelerator is particularly looking to help with include digitally-connected autonomous vehicles and app-connected EV smart chargers, data security software, services using digital twins and real-time location data to improve production line efficiency, and Industrial IoT condition monitoring. It is the role of the programme to work through testing and refining service design as a key part of proving the technologies and ensuring they deliver real tech solutions for real world problems.

As a commercial technology accelerator, the focus lies in supporting cohort members to scale their businesses by testing and refining their offer to meet real-world demand. In some cases that also means demonstrating the benefits connected technologies could make to their business to potential customers.

Alongside business mentoring and access to industry partners, one of the biggest benefits accelerators such as BetaDen offer is access to a network of non-competing peers who support each other to work through challenges and identify new commercial applications for their ideas.

Applications to join the next cohort of technology businesses at BetaDen open in October. For further information, visit www.beta-den.com

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