5G industry news Acceleration & Innovation

Introduction to Innovation Briefing Issue 8 by Ian Smith

  • 2 minute read
  • Published by Crispin Moller on 27 Jan 2022
  • Last modified 27 Jan 2022
Before I joined DCMS I worked for Ericsson, as a chartered engineer specialising in network design and optimisation. A proper, and rewarding, engineering job. Solving engineering problems is what makes me tick, so when I was approached to run the 5G Testbeds and Trials Programme I jumped at the chance. The DCMS role was an opportunity to work in something different; funding incredibly bright people to experiment with 5G use cases. A £200m programme to build a 5G ecosystem.

Heading up the programme is a little like being a headmaster. I think of each of the projects as pupils. Individuals with skills and aspirations.     

I’ve enjoyed watching them grow and mature, overcoming difficulties and turning ambitions into deployments. We’ve had many firsts within the projects and the achievements and awards they have made and received gives me a great sense of pride.

We are now coming to the end of term. The UK’s 5G showcase we are holding in Birmingham on March 22nd and 23rd will see the results of the projects demonstrated and, pandemic allowing of course, be a chance to meet and celebrate what we’ve achieved.

Like any good teacher we’ve learned a lot from the projects. They have influenced spectrum policy and we’ve seen lessons learned in the earlier ones benefit later ones. This has always been a research and development scheme so it’s no surprise that many have ended in a different place to where they started.

But the greatest thing we’ve learned is the need for more choice in infrastructure, particularly Open RAN apparatus. And that’s where this year’s new intake comes in. Wearing my proud headmaster mortarboard, I’m beaming at the calibre of the teams behind FRANC.

We were bowled over by the number and quality of the applications. There are impressive names there: Three of the four UK mobile operators, ARM, Amazon, Toshiba, Thales, eight universities and significant overseas contributors adding to the funding from DCMS.

That’s just the winners. The projects which have been funded represents fewer than half the applicants. I’d like to thank the team at DCMS, and our external advisors who marked the entrance exams. Next term is going to be very exciting. I am also keen to those who were unsuccessful to keep going and continue to contribute to the UK Telecoms agenda.

Now however it’s time for me to pick up the spanners again. I am moving on to  become the CTO of a rapidly growing company rolling out fibre and 5G to underserved rural areas.      

I’ll be sorry to leave the fantastic people I’ve worked with over the last four years, and extremely proud of our achievements. We have built a 5G ecosystem, and I look forward to taking my place within it.

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