The UK government is committed to building secure and resilient communications infrastructure as well as enhancing competition and innovation within the telecoms supply chain.

5G Supply Chain Diversification Strategy

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:

  • network supply chains are disaggregated providing network operators more choice and flexibility to build their networks
  • open interfaces that promote interoperability are the default promoting a ‘best-of-breed’ approach that bolsters quality, innovation and resilience
  • the global supply chain for components is distributed across regions creating resilience and flexibility
  • standards are set transparently and independently promoting quality, innovation and security and interoperability
  • security and resilience is a priority and key consideration in network design and operation.

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:

  • Supporting incumbent suppliers: to ensure their resilience and ability to supply the market in the near term, while supporting their transition into the emerging market structure
  • Attracting new suppliers into the UK market: to build resilience and competition, prioritising deployments that are in line with the government's longer term vision 
  • Accelerating open-interface solutions and deployment: so that the UK is not reliant on any single vendor and begins to realise the long term vision for a more open and innovative market

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.

Open RAN Principles

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.

DCMS Diversification Funding Programmes

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.

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Telecoms Supply Chain Diversification Advisory Council

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.

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Building a more competitive, innovative, and diverse supply chain for the global telecoms market.