The Future RAN Competition (FRANC) will fund innovative R&D projects across the UK to speed up the adoption of O-RAN.
To receive a share of the £30 million, tech and telecoms innovators are encouraged to submit proposals for projects that will help to fast-track the availability of viable O-RAN products and suppliers and create a stronger case for government and business investment in the technology.
Proposals could include exploring issues around power efficiency, the management of radio wave ‘spectrum’ resource, the availability of advanced software platforms, systems integration and security.
The government hopes the competition fosters new research collaboration between international and new homegrown players in the UK’s public telecoms networks.
Its launch follows the opening last week of a new government-backed £1 million high tech lab to help accelerate the adoption of Open RAN technology.
Both schemes are pillars of the government’s £250 million 5G Diversification Strategy which was published alongside a timetable for the removal of Huawei equipment from 5G networks.
The strategy aims to build a more secure and innovative telecoms supply chain which is fit for the future, less reliant on a small number of multinational suppliers and more accessible for new market entrants.
FRANC is part of a longer-term programme of O-RAN R&D. Two other Open RAN projects announced in the Diversification Strategy are underway – the SmartRAN Open Network Interoperability Centre (SONIC) and NeutrORAN, led by NEC with £1.6 million government funding, which is developing a testbed in North Wales for multiple vendors and mobile operators to test O-RAN neutral host in a live outdoor rural environment.