5G supply chain diversification strategy

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has published its 5G supply chain diversification strategy, setting out government’s plan to grow the UK's telecoms supply chain while ensuring it is resilient to future trends and threats. The Strategy is backed by an initial £250 million to start work to implement priority measures and build momentum.

Three key areas of activity form the structure of the government’s targeted plans to diversify the global telecoms supply market:

  • 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 our longer term vision;
  • Accelerating open-interface solutions and deployment so that we are not reliant on any single vendor and begin to realise our long term vision for a more open and innovative market.

Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Rt Hon Oliver Dowden states that the case for diversification is essential, following the government’s decision to remove Huawei equipment from future networks, leaving the UK reliant on just two mobile access network equipment suppliers - Nokia and Ericsson.

In setting out its approach, the Strategy aims to resolve the market failure of supplier lock-in and incumbent advantage, with a long term vision for the telecoms supply market, 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.

Detailed proposals for support incumbent suppliers, attracting new suppliers to the UK market and accelerating open-interface solutions and deployment are also set out in the Strategy.

To kickstart the diversification strategy, DCMS will establish a SmartRAN Open Network Interoperability Centre (SONIC) - that will create a platform for existing and emerging suppliers to come together to test and demonstrate interoperable solutions. Japanese supplier NEC has received government support to establish its NeutrORAN project, which will showcase the latest innovations in the Radio Access Network space, with live 5G Open RAN within the UK by 2021.

The 5G Testbeds and Trials Programme will also fund a range of trials that utilise open-interface technologies as part of the DCMS 5G Testbeds and Trials Programme, to help grow the ecosystem for the testing, development and deployment of in the UK. At the heart of that ecosystem will be the National Telecoms Lab, a state of the art research and development facility that will drive forward security, performance and resilience testing of new suppliers and technologies.

As set out in last week’s National Infrastructure Strategy, and the first step in towards delivering government’s long-term vision, and initial £250m of funding has been committed to accelerate diversification and establish UK expertise and capability within the telecoms supply chain.

The delivery and implementation of the strategy will be guided by the Telecoms Diversification Taskforce, comprised of experts from industry and academia. The Taskforce will, in the first instance, look at designing and developing targeted measures across the three strands of the diversification strategy and will also consider opportunities to establish UK capability across the wider 5G supply chain.

Julian David, CEO of techUK, commented:

“This Strategy sets out a clear path to maintaining and enhancing the resilience of our existing telecoms supply chain and puts in place the building blocks – particularly the National Telecoms Lab – for a more diverse and interoperable set of suppliers. Understandably the Government has focused on shorter-term issues of supporting incumbent market structures but we urge it not to lose sight of the world-leading role that the UK should play in the high-growth markets such as Open RAN.”

You can catch up with techUK's Diversifying Telecoms campaign here.

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techUK's Communications Infrastructure Programme brings together government, the regulator, telecom companies and its stakeholders around four themes; shared infrastructure, security and resilience, unlicensed spectrum and our 5G ecosystem. We do so to lower the cost to the sector of deployment, ensure confidence in networks, spur innovation and unlock value for all parties in 5G. This is delivered through a mix of thought leadership, multilateral engagement and ecosystem building.

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Jo O'Riordan

Jo O'Riordan

Head of Spectrum Policy and Telecoms, techUK

Sophie James

Sophie James

Programme Manager, Communications Infrastructure and Services, techUK

Julia Ofori-Addo

Julia Ofori-Addo

Programme Assistant, Broadband Stakeholder Group