Boosting its ambition to enhance the use of next-generation networks across its local central England region, 5G accelerator West Midlands 5G (WM5G) has been awarded £2.4m in funding through the UK government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sports’ Future Radio Access Network (FRANC) competition.
Future RAN is a funding competition that has allocated £30m of research and development funding to projects that support the goals of the UK government’s 5G Supply Chain Diversification Strategy, an ambitious plan to grow the UK’s telecoms supply chain while ensuring it is resilient to future trends and threats. It has three core strands: supporting incumbent suppliers; attracting new suppliers into the UK market; and accelerating the development and deployment of open-interface services.
WM5G – part of the Accelerating Intelligence RAN in 5G (ARI-5G) consortium – believes the current RAN market is dominated by a handful of organisations working to 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) standards. This defines standard organisations that develop protocols for mobile telecommunications.
While 3GPP allows for a degree of interoperability, WM5G insists the economic incentive for any supplier to develop an interoperable RAN offering is challenging. Developing open standards will provide additional space for new suppliers at any level of the RAN market to get started. Supported by the DCMS, the ARI-5G consortium will be led by Telecom Infra Project (TIP) – an alliance of more than 400 major telco players – along with partners WM5G, BT, Accelerant, Viavi, Amdocs and Attocore.
WM5G said public funding plays an important role in promoting interoperable architectures while developing the necessary technical capabilities in the industry. The funding will be used to accelerate Open RAN deployment in the UK, enabling technical partners and suppliers to unlock commercial opportunities and support new suppliers.
The work is designed to help to overcome the issue of deployment in urban areas, supporting the region’s growth as a leading centre for innovation, and signalling the government’s confidence in the West Midlands as the ideal place to develop and test services.
As part of the research and development project, WM5G will provide the urban testbed for the testing and development of Open RAN services in the Birmingham Knowledge Quarter, which has a concentration of high-tech organisations and companies.
The high-tech campus is located next to Aston and Birmingham City University, close to the A38 Aston Expressway and comprised of innovative tech companies. WM5G regards the knowledge quarter as providing an ideal test bed to explore the challenges and opportunities of scaling up the 5G ecosystem in urban developments.
Assessing its role in the project, WM5G said it was proud to have secured government funding as part of the ARI-5G consortium to develop and innovate Open RAN services in what it called an important and exciting move towards a better, more connected future.
“WM5G’s involvement as part of the ARI-5G consortium is a fantastic step for connectivity in the West Midlands,” said WM5G managing director Robert Franks.
“This strategic move will enable new technologies to be utilised by some of the most progressive companies and vendors in the region, cementing WM5G as a leading player and forward-thinker in the move towards Open RAN solutions.”