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DCMS launches £30 million competition to diversify 5G supply chain

The R&D initiative aims to create a secure and innovative telecoms supply chain environment in the UK

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has announced a new R&D competition that will commit £30 million to diversify the UK’s 5G supply chain.

The Future RAN Competition (FRANC) is part of the government’s £250 million 5G Diversification Strategy, which was published following the decision to remove Huawei equipment from the UK’s 5G infrastructure

The Strategy aims to create a secure and innovative telecoms supply chain environment that is more accessible for new market entrants as well as less dependent on a few monopoly-holding multinational suppliers.

The newly-announced competition will contribute to the delivery of the Diversification Strategy by attracting new international 5G RAN suppliers and encouraging research collaboration between them and the UK’s homegrown players within public telecoms networks. The scheme also aims to accelerate the development of high-performance 5G Open RAN solutions for the UK’s dense urban requirements by 2025.

Digital Infrastructure minister Matt Warman said that the competition “aims to get some of our most creative minds helping the UK safely and securely deliver the amazing benefits of 5G for people and businesses”.

“It is a major part of our plans to harness the country’s tech prowess, open up the telecoms market, and create new jobs and investment as we build back better from the pandemic,” he added.

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Commenting on the news, techUK director of Markets, Matthew Evans, described the announcement as a “positive step in driving forward the UK’s telecoms diversification agenda, with concrete action to help support the development of innovative new products for our mobile network infrastructure”. 

“We find ourselves at the start of a challenging period of time, with pressure on rolling out 5G at pace whilst ensuring our networks are resilient, secure and future proof. That’s why it’s important that [the] government bring forward further plans on supporting open and disaggregated networks, from technical standards to a long term R&D roadmap,” he added.

Candidates, who are required to be from consortia with two or more members, with funding available for activity taking place in the UK, are asked to send in their applications by 27 August 2021, with shortlisted applicants expected to be notified by mid-September. Following the successful completion of interviews, the project pre-grants will be set up between November 2021 and January 2022.

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