The UK's Open Networks Ecosystem
The UK government is committed to building secure and resilient communications infrastructure as well as enhancing competition and innovation within the telecoms supply chain.
The 2019 Telecoms Supply Chain Review identified that the greatest risk of national dependence in telecoms networks is in the ‘access’ network. As the characteristics and potential of 5G mean that 5G networks are likely to play a significant role in critical national infrastructure it is critical that the supply market for these networks is diverse and resilient.
UK government believes that a fundamental shift in the structure of the telecoms supply market is required, that is underpinned by the principles of openness, competition and diversity. Their long term vision for the telecoms supply market is one where:
The UK’s 5G Supply Chain Diversification Strategy, published in November 2020, was developed in response and sets out targeted and ambitious plans to grow and diversify the telecoms supply market, ensuring it is resilient to future trends and threats. It focuses on three key areas of activity:
The strategy identifies the success of open-interface solutions, such as Open RAN, as an important element for achieving diversification. Indeed, UK government shares with UK Mobile Network Operators a joint ambition for 35% of the UK’s mobile network traffic to be carried over open and interoperable RAN architectures by 2030.
The full strategy can be read here.
In April 2022, the government published their Open RAN principles paper, which set out the characteristics that open-interface solutions, such as Open RAN, should possess in order to deliver on the UK’s 5G Supply Chain Diversification Strategy’s goals and successfully develop and deploy open-interface architectures. These principles have been desgned to provide clarity on the design characteristics of Open RAN, to clear up ambiguity and to ensure it delivers on its promise of resilient and secure networks for 5G and beyond, and innovative and competitive supply chains for the long-run. There are four key principles:
Open disaggregation, allowing elements of the RAN to be sourced from different suppliers and implemented in new ways
Standards-based compliance, allowing all suppliers to test solutions against standards in an open, neutral environment
Demonstrated interoperability, ensuring disaggregated elements work together as a fully functional system — at a minimum matching the performance and security of current solutions
Implementation neutrality, allowing suppliers to innovate and differentiate on the features and performance of their products.
These will form the bedrock of future government investment in Open RAN and DCMS has outlined approaches to realise these principles.
You can read the full details of the Open RAN principles here.
Running until the end of March 2025, the Open Networks R&D fund is designed to accelerate the development and deployment of open interface architectures, such as Open RAN.
The government’s £250 million investment will accelerate the pace of momentum already being seen in the global market where mobile network operators, builders and suppliers are taking proactive steps to support Open RAN trials and deployments in their commercial deployments. The fund will enable the development of open-interface solutions and step up efforts to shape technology standards alongside key industry and international partners.
The Telecoms Supply Chain Diversification (TSCD) Advisory Council is a non-statutory advisory committee of independent members set up to provide advice to the government. The Council’s purpose is to provide ongoing advice to the government on telecoms diversification, and in particular to advise on the implementation of the 5G Supply Chain Diversification Strategy.
Building a more competitive, innovative, and diverse supply chain for the global telecoms market.