The UK government is committed to building secure and resilient communications infrastructure as well as enhancing competition and innovation within the telecoms supply chain.
5G Supply Chain Diversification Strategy
The 2019 Telecoms Supply Chain Review identified the ‘access network’ as the greatest risk of national dependence in telecoms networks. As the characteristics and potential of 5G mean that 5G networks are likely to play a significant role in critical national infrastructure, the supply market for these networks must be diverse and resilient.
UK government believes that a fundamental shift in the structure of the telecoms supply market is required, underpinned by the principles of openness, competition and diversity. Their long-term vision for the telecoms supply market is one where:
- network supply chains are disaggregated providing network operators more choice and flexibility to build their networks
- open interfaces that promote interoperability are the default promoting a ‘best-of-breed’ approach that bolsters quality, innovation and resilience
- the global supply chain for components is distributed across regions creating resilience and flexibility
- standards are set transparently and independently promoting quality, innovation and security and interoperability
- security and resilience is a priority and key consideration in network design and operation.
The UK’s 5G Supply Chain Diversification Strategy, published in November 2020, was developed in response and sets out targeted and ambitious plans to grow and diversify the telecoms supply market, ensuring it is resilient to future trends and threats. It focuses on three key areas of activity:
- Supporting incumbent suppliers: to ensure their resilience and ability to supply the market in the near term, while supporting their transition into the emerging market structure
- Attracting new suppliers into the UK market: to build resilience and competition, prioritising deployments that are in line with the government's longer term vision
- Accelerating open-interface solutions and deployment: so that the UK is not reliant on any single vendor and begins to realise the long term vision for a more open and innovative market
The strategy identifies the success of open-interface solutions, such as Open RAN, as an important element for achieving diversification. Indeed, UK government shares with UK Mobile Network Operators a joint ambition for 35% of the UK’s mobile network traffic to be carried over open and interoperable RAN architectures by 2030.
The full strategy can be read here.
In April 2022, the government published their Open RAN principles paper, which set out the characteristics that open-interface solutions, such as Open RAN, should possess in order to deliver on the UK’s 5G Supply Chain Diversification Strategy’s goals and successfully develop and deploy open-interface architectures. These principles have been designed to provide clarity on the design characteristics of Open RAN, to clear up ambiguity and 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. There are four key principles:
- Open disaggregation, allowing elements of the RAN to be sourced from different suppliers and implemented in new ways
- Standards-based compliance, allowing all suppliers to test solutions against standards in an open, neutral environment
- Demonstrated interoperability, ensuring disaggregated elements work together as a fully functional system — at a minimum matching the performance and security of current solutions
- Implementation neutrality, allowing suppliers to innovate and differentiate on the features and performance of their products.
You can read the full details of the Open RAN principles here.
The Open Networks R&D fund, delivered through the Department of Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) is designed to realise these principles, accelerating the development and deployment of open interface architectures, such as Open RAN.
The Telecoms Supply Chain Diversification (TSCD) Advisory Council is a non-statutory advisory committee of independent members set up to provide advice to the government. The Council’s purpose is to provide ongoing advice to the government on telecoms diversification, and in particular to advise on the implementation of the 5G Supply Chain Diversification Strategy.
The Advisory Council is made up of the following individuals:
- Simon Blagden CBE - Chair
- Clive Selley, Openreach
- David Hennessy, Three
- David Rogers, Copper Horse
- Deborah Okenla, Your Startup, Your Story
- Dimitra Simeonidou, University of Bristol
- Howard Watson, BT
- Jessica Rushworth, Digital Catapult
- Rahim Tafazolli, University of Surrey
- Ros Singleton, Springfibre
- Scott Petty, Vodafone
- Scott Steedman, BSI Group
The following officials are also available to the Advisory Council to provide technical expertise:
- Dr Ian Levy (NCSC, Technical Director)
- Lindsey Fussell (Ofcom, Group Director for Networks and Communications)