Fifteen consortia have won funding from DCMS to develop new technologies which will expand the choice that both the big mobile operators, and the growing number of companies installing private networks have when specifying equipment. The Future RAN Competition, known as FRANC, is the first of a new breed of 5G projects. In a departure from previous initiatives such as the 5G Testbeds and Trials, FRANC is intended to stimulate research and development of new infrastructure products.
The need for this comes from the dearth of suppliers of telecommunications equipment. Once there were dozens of companies developing mobile infrastructure, from Marconi to Motorola, today there are only a few major players that are deemed secure, and in the UK that means a choice between Ericsson and Nokia. With all networks wanting to buy from at least two companies, the government wants to stimulate the market, grow british technology and generate Intellectual property.
FRANC reflects a wide mix of participants, from universities to startups, small innovative companies and major multinationals. Three of the four major mobile network operators are among the companies involved, along with one overseas operator. For example the Flex-5G project has attracted international partners, leading operators and technologists to deliver the most flexible, advanced 5G-SA network solution that Europe has to offer.
There is an emphasis on supporting Open RAN, pioneering new technologies, and developing the components that go into mobile phone cells.
When the FRANC competition was announced, DCMS said it was looking to take a portfolio approach. It would not just fund bids designed to provide the Mobile Network Operators with complete alternatives but seek to build a British ecosystem with complementing and cooperating projects.
Here we look at the projects and how they will revolutionise the market for mobile network apparatus.
The huge interest in the competition, with significantly more applicants than anticipated has seen a large number of projects funded.
Projects range from radio test equipment with a DCMS contribution of less than £370,000 to a British designed, built and manufactured mobile network at nearly £5m. All programmes are fund matched with the consortia providing a minimum of 40 per cent of the development cost. Figures given here are just for the DCMS element of the funding.
- 5G DRIVE £1,430,470
- ARI-5G £2,377,686
- BEACON-5G £1,568,562
- Best of British £4,957,149
- CoMP-O-RAN £4,732,473
- DU-Volution £4,659,606
- ECORAN £492,000
- Flex-5G £4,681,242
- FRATS £365,641
- Open RAN GaN £2,435,528
- O-RANOS £1,937,528
- Proteus £3,718,751
- Scalable Optical Fronthaul £1,526,886
- Secure 5G Platform using Novel, Efficient Wideband PA £1,097,950
- TAPSCORP £1,928,756