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UK government announces fresh funds for 5G, 6G R&D activities

The U.K. government has invited universities and telecoms firms to apply for up to £25 million ($30 million) to research and develop the next generation of 5G and as-yet-unstandardized 6G network equipment as part of new government plans to boost innovation in the sector.

The Future Open Networks Research Challenge will enable academics and the industry to conduct early-stage research into open and interoperable telecoms solutions, such as Open RAN, for use in 5G and future networks such as 6G.

The government said it is also accelerating the development of Open RAN technology as part of its £250 million Open Networks R&D Fund.

In addition, the government has put £10 million into launching the UK Telecoms Innovation Network (UKTIN), a new body dedicated to boosting creativity in the country’s telecoms supply chain.

The UKTIN will act as an information and ideas hub for industry and academics looking to access funding or R&D testing facilities and opportunities to collaborate on developing new mobile and broadband technology. Digital Catapult, CW (Cambridge Wireless), University of Bristol and West Midlands 5G recently won the competition to set up and oversee the network.

The UK will also invest £1.6 million in a joint-funded £3.6 million competition with the Republic of Korea to collaborate on a R&D project to accelerate the development of O-RAN technology.

Each country will fund a group of several companies to work together to accelerate the development of technical solutions to improve power efficiency in O-RAN networks.

UK Digital Infrastructure Minister Matt Warman said: “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. 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.

Consortia applying for the Future Open Networks Research Challenge should be led by universities, and the program asks for the participation of at least one large vendor; participants can also include mobile network operators or other industrial partners. The funding is available for activity taking place in the U.K. The government said that the bids to take part in this initiative must be submitted by September 20.

In May, the U.K. government announced a set of principles for the development and deployment of O-RAN equipment.

The government noted that there is a need for clarity on the design characteristics of O-RAN, such as the adoption of standards and demonstration of interoperability between components. These O-RAN principles clear up this ambiguity 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, the government said.

This is a good initiative by the U.K. Government which will accelerate development and innovation. All the best to all those involved in this endeavour.

Shishir Gupta, Founder and CEO, StartupLanes

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