Future RAN is a funding competition that has allocated £30million of research and development funding to projects that support the goals of the Government’s 5G Supply Chain Diversification Strategy, an ambitious plan to grow the UK’s telecoms supply chain while ensuring it is resilient to future trends and threats. It has three core strands: supporting incumbent suppliers; attracting new suppliers into the UK market; and accelerating the development and deployment of open-interface solutions.
The current RAN market is dominated by a handful of organisations working to 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project) standards. This defines standard organisations that develop protocols for mobile telecommunications. Whilst 3GPP allows for a degree of interoperability, the economic incentive for any vendor to develop an interoperable RAN solution is challenging. Developing open standards will provide additional space for new vendors at any level of the RAN market to get started. Public funding plays an important role to promote interoperable architectures while developing the necessary technical capabilities in the industry.
The ARI-5G consortium, supported by DCMS, will be led by Telecom Infra Project (TIP) – an alliance of over 400 major telco players – along with partners WM5G, BT, Accelerant, Viavi, Amdocs and Attocore. Andy Welch, Technical Lead at WM5G led the bid. The funding will be used to accelerate Open RAN deployment in the UK, enabling technical partners and vendors to unlock commercial opportunities and support new suppliers.
As part of this innovative research and development project, WM5G will provide the urban testbed for the testing and development of Open RAN solutions in the Birmingham Knowledge Quarter (BKQ). The high-tech campus is located next to Aston and Birmingham City University, close to the A38 Aston Expressway and comprised of innovative tech companies. The knowledge quarter will provide an ideal test bed to explore the challenges and opportunities of scaling up the 5G ecosystem in urban developments.
The work will help to overcome the issue of deployment in urban areas, supporting the region’s growth as a leading centre for innovation and signalling the government’s confidence in the West Midlands as the ideal place to develop and test solutions.
Robert Franks, Managing Director at WM5G said: “WM5G’s involvement as part of the ARI-5G consortium is a fantastic step for connectivity in the West Midlands. This strategic move will enable new technologies to be utilised by some of the most progressive companies and vendors in the region, cementing WM5G as a leading player and forward-thinker in the move towards Open RAN solutions.
Rhys Enfield, Director of Infrastructure Acceleration at WM5G said: “We are proud to have secured government funding as part of the ARI-5G consortium - to develop and innovate Open RAN solutions in an important and exciting move towards a better, more connected future.
“The Birmingham Knowledge Quarter, with its concentration of high-tech organisations and companies, will make a fantastic urban testbed for the development of vendor-neutral Open RAN technologies in the UK.”