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UK to collaborate with South Korea on 5G, 6G development fund

Alongside the world-first agreement, the sector will see a £25 million boost for research into Open RAN

A hologram showing a 6G network concept on display at the 4th China International Import Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai, China

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has announced a UK partnership with the Republic of Korea, along with a new research scheme, all aimed at accelerating 5G and 6G development.

The UK government will invest £1.6 million into a competition totalling £3.6 million, in partnership with the Republic of Korea to create world-leading research and development of interoperable solutions such as Open Radio Access Network (Open RAN) technology. This will be matched by a total of £2.1 million from the industry.

Applicants must be from consortia with two or more organisations from a relevant industry, academic field, or public sector background. Each country will fund a group of several companies.

The DCMS also set out plans for The Future Open Networks Research Challenge today, a £25 million fund set up to help fund consortia of firms and universities developing solutions for 5G and future 6G networks.

Entrants will be able to sign up to help fund network equipment research and open and interoperable telecoms solutions. Research in this field is expected to yield greater network speed and efficiency, but technology such as Open RAN needs more development to become commercially viable.

It is hoped that by boosting research in the sector the high energy cost of Open RAN might be reduced. In turn, this would help promote more carbon-neutral operations. Variation in telecommunications technology is also seen as a bonus for the sector, with companies ideally offering more choice of network and technology shortly.

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The announcement follows the creation of the UK Telecoms Innovation Network (UKTIN) in March, a body which seeks to fund research and development in network technologies such as Open RAN.

The winners of the UKTIN competition, announced today, are The Digital Catapult, Cambridge Wireless, University of Bristol and West Midlands 5G. From September, they will advise on private and public investment in the telecoms industry, as well as guide firms and researchers in need of funding or facilities. 

“The seamless connectivity and blistering speeds of 5G and then 6G will power a tech revolution which will enrich people’s lives and fire up productivity across the economy,” said Digital Infrastructure Minister Matt Warman.

“It’s why we’re investing millions and partnering with international allies to unleash innovation and develop new ways to make these networks more secure, resilient and less reliant on a handful of suppliers.”

Bids for the UK-Republic of Korea competition must be submitted by noon, on September 20 2022. Projects are expected to run until March 2024.

For the Future Open Networks Research Challenge, consortia need to be led by universities and include at least one large vendor. Proposals must be submitted by October 3 2022.

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