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Local authorities win funding for 5G connectivity projects


Mark Say Managing Editor

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5G network symbols around smartphone
Image source: Niam

A group of local authorities are among the organisations to receive financial support for projects aimed at developing new 5G connectivity solutions.

They are involved in some of the initiatives that have won shares of £88 million from the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) through its Open Networks Ecosystem (ONE) competition.

All the projects are aimed at demonstrating the reliability and feasibility of Open Radio Access Network (RAN) technologies, which involve the disaggregation of the radio access network into parts interconnected by standards based, interoperable interfaces. This is intended to improve connectivity in places with heavy demand on mobile services.

West Sussex Council is among those to be involved in a project, in this case BEACH (Worthing), which has received £3.1 million to deploy low impact 4G and 5G small cells along the beach promenade and town centre.

Dorset Council is a partner in the Dorset Open Networks Ecosystem (DONE), aimed at defining a blueprint for rural connectivity by advancing the development of RANs and examining the use of alternatives to standard network equipment. The project has received funding of £3.6 million.

Showcase and simulation

Liverpool city Region HDD involves the local combined authority and has received £9 million to showcase the benefits of Open RAN. It will include delivering a simulated environment for efficient network and application design and development to reduce risks in the deployment.

Glasgow City Council is a partner in the Open Network Shared Spectrum Innovation and Design Environment (ON-SIDE), which is addressing challenges association with deploying 5G standalone networks operating in the shared access radio spectrum. The project has received £195,000.

The One Western O-RAN initiative, which has received £9.98 million, includes the West of England Combined Authority along with Shropshire, Worcestershire, Cardiff and Bath and North East Somerset Councils among its partners. It is focused on deploying a 5G StandAlone RAN in four high density demand scenarios at different locations.

Reach (Blackpool) includes the local authority for the town and is aimed at developing new tools to support heavy mobile traffic in tourist areas. It has received £3.1 million.

Sunderland City Council is a partner in the Sunderland Open Network Ecosystem, which has received £5.7 million to showcase a new high density demand Open RAN solution at the Stadium of Light and British Esports Arena. These are aimed at changing the way people engage with live and e-sports.

The projects will run until March 2025.

Diverse technology

Minister for Data and Digital Infrastructure Sir John Whittingdale said: “Whether you’re in a busy city centre or a rural village, a fast and reliable mobile connection is vital to staying in touch, accessing services and doing business.

“In order to secure that, we need to embrace a diverse and secure range of technology 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.”

DSIT said the major mobile network operations have endorsed the Open RAN principles, and that a memorandum of understanding has reaffirmed the ambition for 35% of the UK’s network traffic to pass through interoperable RAN technologies by 2030.

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