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Cambridgeshire set to benefit from over £9 million of investment to trial innovative 5G technologies

14 September 2023

One of 19 projects benefiting from today’s Government announcement of an £88 million investment in innovative open 5G connectivity solutions across the UK, is the Cambridgeshire Open RAN Ecosystem (CORE) project led by Cambridgeshire County Council’s digital connectivity programme Connecting Cambridgeshire and a consortium of partners – AWTG, Benetel, Ontix, Wolfram, University of Surrey and University of Cambridge – who will harness next-generation technology to deliver a multi-vendor 5G Open RAN neutral host platform to improve mobile capacity in high-density data usage locations.

£88 million research and development boost for innovative connectivity to future proof UK mobile network

  • Government announces £88 million investment in innovative open 5G connectivity solutions across the UK
  • Funding awarded to 19 projects through the Open Networks Ecosystem (ONE) competition – designed to demonstrate the feasibility and reliability of technology

Iconic sporting venues and tourism hotspots across the UK will see trials of new mobile tech designed to increase the resilience of the UK mobile network and ensure we are not overly reliant on any one form of technology, thanks to £88 million of UK Government R&D investment in innovative connectivity.

The 19 successful projects in the Open Networks Ecosystem (ONE) Competition will demonstrate the reliability and feasibility of Open Radio Access Network (RAN) technologies and showcase their role in delivering resilient and future-proofed connectivity to UK citizens and businesses. Find out more about the Cambridgeshire Open RAN Ecosystem (CORE) project at the bottom of this page.

The ONE competition helps deliver on the UK’s ambition to be a global leader in telecoms research and development, through investment in cutting-edge open hardware and software.

The funding will enable the successful projects to develop and demonstrate a range of innovative technological solutions to improve connectivity in places with some of the biggest demand on mobile services. This includes busy locations like cities, airports, stadiums, or large venues where many people use their devices simultaneously, posing a challenge for mobile networks to handle high levels of traffic.

The ONE competition was designed to demonstrate how this new way of building mobile networks can deliver fast, dependable connectivity in busy places where many people need wireless connections. Instead of using only one company's equipment, Open RAN enables different companies' technology to work together, which can make the network better and more flexible.

The projects will initiate trials of open 5G networks across the country, in:

  • Major urban centres in Glasgow, Cambridge, Liverpool, Bath, and the City of London
  • Iconic sports and entertainment venues including Cardiff’s Principality Stadium, Sunderland’s Stadium of Light, the National eSport Arena, Cambridge Corn Exchange, and Shelsley Walsh motorsport venue
  • The historic seaside resorts of Blackpool and Worthing

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.”

Welcoming the announcement for Cambridgeshire, Cllr Lorna Dupré, Chair of Cambridgeshire County Council’s Environment and Green Investment Committee, which oversees the Connecting Cambridgeshire programme

“Cambridgeshire County Council’s digital connectivity programme Connecting Cambridgeshire is proud to be leading this highly qualified consortium, comprising next-generation infrastructure service providers, technology developers, mobile network operators, renowned research universities and market-leading equipment manufacturers.

“All partners in the consortium believe that 5G is a crucial catalyst for enhancing productivity and fostering economic growth within our county. This project provides a unique opportunity to experiment with and trial innovative 5G technologies within the high demand, densely populated areas of Cambridgeshire to address mobile coverage and capacity opportunities and challenges for the wider region going forward.”

Dr Nik Johnson, Mayor of the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority, said:

"This is a great result for Connecting Cambridgeshire - my congratulations and thanks to them in securing what is an impressive and timely financial boost that will be of huge help to us in delivering the 21st century digital infrastructure and turbo-charged connectivity our region needs."

Running until March 2025, the projects are part of the government's Open Networks Research and Development Fund, dedicated to building secure and resilient communications infrastructure and enhancing competition and innovation within the 5G telecoms supply chain. See the full list of successful projects.

In a further boost to telecoms supply chain resilience and diversification, major mobile network operators BT/EE, Three UK, Virgin Media O2, and Vodafone to endorse the UK's Open RAN Principles.

The Memorandum of Understanding reaffirms the ambition for 35% of the UK's network traffic to pass through open and interoperable Radio Access Network (RAN) technologies by 2030.

Hamish MacLeod, Chief Executive of Mobile UK:

"The development of open and interoperable RAN solutions is important to the UK's mobile industry. This announcement highlights Mobile UK's member operator's ongoing R&D trial and deployment programmes, helping progress solutions to realise ambitions to grow traffic over open RAN architecture."

Nick Johnson, Head of UKTIN said:

“The Government’s funding to tackle adoption barriers of open mobile networks is another significant contribution to the telecoms industry, and once again highlights the important role the sector plays in driving connectivity and economic growth in the UK.

“Building a diversified telecoms infrastructure in the UK is crucial to unlocking opportunities for growth and creating a prosperous future. The projects announced today, in support of that mission, will both deliver exciting innovations and consider how to overcome some of the tricky but important challenges to wide-scale deployments.”

This announcement coincides with Vodafone's recent start of Open RAN equipment installation at 2,500 sites in Wales and the South-West of England.

Project details 

Cambridgeshire Open RAN Ecosystem (CORE) project

Location: Cambridge (Deployment) and London (Lab Testing)
Funding amount: £6,523,645 (plus £2,699,740 of commercial funding to give a total funding amount of £9,223,385)
Partners: Cambridgeshire County Council, AWTG, Benetel, Ontix, Wolfram, University of Surrey & University of Cambridge

Project description

The project will deliver a cutting-edge, multi-vendor 5G Open RAN neutral host platform catering for High Demand Density (HDD) locations. The primary objective of this project is to cultivate technical expertise and insights to accelerate the deployment of 5G in similar regions across the UK.

This network will serve as a dynamic testing ground to develop and trial enhanced interoperability of hardware and software in HDD environments with the ambition of demonstrating how the costs of implementation can be reduced and simplified. The project seeks to stimulate innovation and encourage new players to enter the UK market by proving Open RAN in a real-world HDD test environment. The project team will work in partnership with mobile network operators in order to deliver these mutual ambitions.

By supporting the development of novel software including xApps, rApps & RIS to test the optimisation capabilities of Open RAN, integrating devices including radio units into an Open RAN environment, and delivering community-oriented products such as an Augmented Reality experience that will both test the data handling capabilities of Open RAN and support the local tourism industry, the project will support the drive to diversify the 5G Open RAN Hardware & Software supply chain in the UK.

The Connecting Cambridgeshire team is excited to lead this transformative project that will unlock new opportunities, propel innovation, and reinforce the UK’s position at the forefront of Open RAN technology exploration.