The supply of equipment into mobile telecoms networks has traditionally required huge investment and been challenging for new entrants due to proprietary interfaces between key equipment elements and the “hardening” of network functionality into bespoke chipsets embedded in equipment.

Two key developments in mobile networks helping to address these challenges are: so called Open RAN standards defining key equipment interfaces, and network virtualisation where network functions are increasingly implemented in software and decoupled from hardware.

Both of the above areas are still in relatively early stages.  Therefore, the UK is investing in a range of research and deployment projects to accelerate progress in these key and interlinked areas. 

A key component of this is the UK’s £250m Open Networks Research and Development Fund.  Running until the end of March 2025, the fund comprises a series of activities focused on enabling different aspects of open interface architectures and ecosystems.  The table below gives a summary of planned activities within this.


Live activities from this fund that can be found on this site include: SONIC labs, FRANC, NeutrORAN, UKTL, International R&D collaborations.

Public funding for open networks R&D in the UK is made up of the following currently active R&D programmes and open calls for proposals:

Currently active R&D programmes:

  • The DCMS Future RAN Competition (FRANC) aims to accelerate the availability of open-interface solutions in telecoms networks and to ensure that a diverse range of network products are available at commercial grade for wide-scale deployments.

Currently open calls for R&D programmes

  • The £25 million Future Open Networks Research Challenge (FONRC) aims to connect UK universities with large RAN vendors, and other telecoms organisations and work collaboratively to conduct research and development that will drive openness and interoperability in future network architectures.

Open RAN standards and network virtualisation is applicable and raises different challenges at all levels in radio access networks; from the antenna through to the core network.  In this area of our site, we guide you through the range of UK R&D projects in this space.

diversification network diagram
Below Gareth Spence talks to Alex Cleaves from the UK’s Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and ADVA’s Anthony Magee about the Future RAN project and plans to diversify the country’s 5G infrastructure.


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