The UK Government has announced an ambition for 35% of the nation’s mobile network traffic to be carried over open and interoperable radio access network (Open RAN) architectures by 2030.
Minister of Media, Data and Digital Infrastructure Julia Lopez (pictured) revealed the plan in a statement to Parliament, saying it has been agreed with mobile network operators, reflects a recommendation of the 5G Diversification Taskforce and comes with a £250 million spending commitment.
She also said that 2G and 3G networks are scheduled to be switched off by 2033 at the latest.
RAN networks disaggregate components and functions, in contrast to most existing mobile networks characterised by closed ‘black boxes’ in which all the components are highly integrated and provided by a single vendor.
Lopez said the more open approach of Open RAN helps to lower barriers to entry and promote innovation.
“The Government welcomes the steps taken by operators and suppliers to position the UK as a leader in the development of open and interoperable RAN technology and is pleased to commit £250 million of investment to support and accelerate this programme of work,” she said.
Elements of the programme will include the provision of £36 million – apparently increased from an earlier promise of £30 million – to fund projects that span key technology challenges to open RAN adoption as part of the Future RAN Competition, and a spend of £15 million on the SmartRAN Open Networks Interoperabilty Centre.
On the switch-off of 2G and 3G, Lopez said: “The Government welcomes the responsible switching off of these networks, and will continue to work with network operators to ensure a smooth transition that meets the needs of business users and consumer, including vulnerable groups.”
Image by Richard Townshend, CC BY 3.0