LONDON - The United Kingdom (UK) Government will today publish new plans to boost the number and diversity of suppliers in the global telecommunications supply market.

A new £250 million 5G Diversification Strategy aims to create a resilient, open and sustainable supply chain so it can seize the opportunities of 5G to improve people’s lives with lightning fast connections speeds and revolutionary data carrying capacity.

It will also be an opportunity to secure the UK’s position as a global leader in science and technology, and harness its existing expertise and investment in business and R&D to grow the telecoms base in the UK tech industry.

The global telecoms market has undergone long-term consolidation and is oriented around three regions (North America, Europe, Asia) and three dominant suppliers (Nokia, Ericsson and Huawei) which make up more than 80 per cent of the supply chain.

Without intervention the market will not diversify in the near future or develop in a way that meets security and resilience needs.

The strategy is being launched on the same day as the second reading of the Telecoms Security Bill in Parliament. The Bill will introduce a strengthened telecoms security framework and provide new national security powers to manage the risks posed by high risk vendors.

Taken together the Bill and Diversification Strategy set out the UK’s comprehensive approach to ensuring the long-term security and resilience of its 5G network. And they provide a powerful platform for UK international engagement to address the market failure in the global telecoms industry.

The UK will work with international partners to ensure a unified approach in areas including: alignment on shaping standards for open and interoperable telecoms technologies, shared investment in R&D and creating scale opportunities for new market entrants.

UK Government Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden said:

“Countless countries have become over reliant on too few telecoms suppliers as they race to deliver 5G. This risks the resilience and security of their communications networks.

“We now need a coordinated international response and in the UK we believe the principles of openness, competition and diversity set out in our new strategy provide the basis for the response.

“We look forward to working with our international partners on this shared goal.”

The Strategy sets out a long-term vision for a healthy supply market, which revolves around three pillars: supporting incumbent suppliers, which will continue to be a major part of the UK market and help the UK meet its ambitious digital infrastructure plans; attracting new suppliers into the UK market; and accelerating open-interface and interoperable technologies such as Open RAN.

The strategy sets out a number of targeted measures the Government will be taking forward:

• Funding a new Open RAN trial with Japanese telecoms vendor NEC. The NEC NeutrORAN project will be based in Wales and will aim to see live 5G Open RAN within the UK in 2021, testing solutions to deploy 5G networks in the most cost effective, innovative and secure way.

• Establishing a world-class National Telecoms Lab. A secure research facility that will bring together operators, existing and new suppliers, academia and the government to create representative networks in which to research and test new ways of increasing security and interoperability.

• Funding the SmartRAN Open Network Innovation Centre (SONIC). Partnering with Ofcom and Digital Catapult, this will be an industry-facing testing facility to foster Open RAN in the UK helping to develop a supply chain with multiple suppliers at every stage.

Alongside this, the UK Government will also look at removing technical and commercial barriers to diversification that will enable new suppliers to enter the UK market and provide 5G infrastructure.

Commenting on the NEC NeutrORAN project, Chris Jackson, CEO of NEC Europe Ltd said:

“We see this project as a catalyst for NEC introducing Open RAN into the UK and enabling the acceleration of 5G deployment.”