• Government announces £88 million investment in innovative open 5G connectivity solutions across the UK
  • funding awarded to 19 projects through the Open Networks Ecosystem (ONE) competition – designed to demonstrate the feasibility and reliability of technology

Iconic sporting venues and tourism hotspots across the UK will see trials of new mobile tech designed to increase the resilience of the UK mobile network and ensure we are not overly reliable on any one form of technology, thanks to £88 million of UK government R&D investment in innovative connectivity.

The 19 successful projects in the Open Networks Ecosystem (ONE) Competition will demonstrate the reliability and feasibility of Open Radio Access Network (RAN) technologies and showcase their role in delivering resilient and future-proofed connectivity to UK citizens and businesses.

The ONE competition helps deliver on the UK’s ambition to become a global leader in telecoms research and development, through investment in cutting-edge open hardware and software.

The funding will enable the successful project to develop and demonstrate a range of innovative technological solutions to improve connectivity in places with some of the biggest demand on mobile services. This includes busy locations like cities, airports, stadiums, or large venues where many people use their devices simultaneously, posing a challenge for mobile networks to handle high levels of traffic.

The ONE The competition was designed to demonstrate how this new way of building mobile networks can deliver fast, dependable connectivity in busy connections where many people need wireless. Instead of using only one company’s equipment, Open RAN enables different companies’ technology to work together, which can make the network better and more flexible.

The projects will initiate trials of open 5G networks across the country, in:

  • major urban centers in Glasgow, Cambridge, Liverpool, Bath, and the City of London
  • Iconic sports and entertainment venues include Cardiff’s Principality Stadium, Sunderland’s Stadium of Light, the National eSport Arena, Cambridge Corn Exchange, and Shelsley Walsh motorsport venue
  • the historic seaside resorts of Blackpool and Worthing

Minister for Data and Digital Infrastructure Sir John Whittingdale said:

Whether you’re in a busy city center or a rural village, a fast and reliable mobile connection is vital for staying in touch, accessing services and doing business.

In order to secure that, we need to embrace a diverse and secure range of technologies that will underpin the network.

The projects we’re backing today with £88 million in government research and development investment will use innovative Open RAN solutions to make our mobile networks more adaptable and resilient, with future-proofed technology to support bringing lightning-fast connections across the country for many years to come.

Running until March 2025, the projects are part of the government’s Open Networks Research and Development Fund, dedicated to building secure and resilient communications infrastructure and enhancing competition and innovation within the 5G telecoms supply chain. The full list of successful projects can be found here.

In a further boost to telecoms supply chain resilience and diversification, major mobile network operators – BT/EE, Three UK, Virgin Media O2, and Vodafone have endorsed the UK’s Open RAN Principles.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) reaffirms the ambition for 35% of the UK’s network traffic to pass through the open and interoperable Radio Access Network (RAN) technologies by 2030.

Hamish MacLeod, Chief Executive of Mobile UK:

The development of open and interoperable RAN solutions are important to the UK’s mobile industry. This announcement highlights Mobile UK’s member operator’s ongoing R&D trial and deployment programs, helping progress solutions to realize ambitions to grow traffic over open RAN architecture.

Nick Johnson, Head of UK Telecoms Innovation Network (UKTIN) said:

The government’s funding to tackle adoption barriers of open mobile networks is another significant contribution to the telecoms industry, and once again highlights the important role the sector plays in driving connectivity and economic growth in the UK.

Building a diversified telecoms infrastructure in the UK is crucial to unlocking opportunities for growth and creating a prosperous future. The projects announced today, in support of that mission, will both deliver exciting innovations and consider how to overcome some of the tricky but important challenges to wide-scale deployments.

This announcement coincides with Vodafone’s recent start of Open RAN equipment installation at 2,500 sites in Wales and the South-West of England.

Notes to editors

The Open Networks Ecosystem (ONE) competition is part of the government’s £250 million 5G Telecoms Supply Chain Diversification Strategy, fostering telecoms R&D projects including Future RAN Competition (FRANC), Future Open Networks Research Challenge, and entities like SmartRAN Open Network Interoperability Center (SONIC Labs), UK Telecoms Innovation Network, and UK Telecoms Lab.

ONE launched on 14 March 2023, offering organizations funding to develop software and hardware products for enhanced open and interoperable technology, including funding for demonstrations of Open RAN technologies in high-demand density environments.

The UK government’s Open RAN Principles set out the characteristics that open-interface solutions, such as Open RANshould possess in order to deliver on the UK’s 5G Supply Chain Diversification Strategy’s goals for resilient and secure networks with competitive and innovative supply chains.

The UK government and UK mobile network operators have a joint ambition to carry 35% of the UK’s mobile network traffic over open and interoperable RAN architectures by 2030. Read the joint statement here.