Springboard for telecoms research and innovation

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The UK has an impressive track record and proud history of shaping the direction of telecommunications networks.

British universities, academics, and industry have been at the forefront of shaping the technologies internationally that help keep people connected and have provided the skills and talent for ongoing investment.

As technologies evolve, it’s important that we harness this excellence in British research to ensure that the UK has a stake and helps steer the development of new technology standards. While building on our existing knowledge and resources, future telecoms technologies should address some of the major challenges of our time, improve everyday lives and deliver for British business.

The launch of these initial platforms by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) will provide a springboard from which further activity in future telecoms research can be launched. This research and development should bring together academia and industry to grow UK capability in future telecoms, including 6G.

Driving the development of this technology through these hubs will help shape the next generation of wireless technology in a way that meets our future connectivity and digital needs. This research and development will also facilitate more international coordination and collaboration, to chart a path forward for next generation wireless technology.

We want to ensure that the UK continues to be at the forefront of future communications systems and technology. The funding launched by EPSRC is an important step in helping to achieve our goals, providing a strategic approach to investment in future telecoms research across the country.

Alongside the investment provided by EPSRC and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) is investing directly into future telecoms research. The government’s diversification strategy is backed by £250 million to invest in the Open Networks Research and Development Fund, which will run until April 2025. As part of this, DCMS launched the Future Open Networks Research Challenge in July 2022, a £25 million challenge which will enable universities to work with large radio access network (RAN) vendors, and other telecoms organisations, to conduct research and development to ensure openness and interoperability are embedded in future network architectures and systems by default.

Other DCMS interventions are also delivering investment into future telecoms, including the Future Radio Access Network Competition, which allocated £30 million into supporting the development of open RAN, and the world-leading government funded labs – SONIC and the UK Telecoms Lab which will ensure that the UK remains at the forefront of research in groundbreaking telecoms technologies. The government is committed to laying the foundation now for future generations of future telecoms. These funding streams, as well as those provided by UKRI and others, are a testament to the importance of research in this area.

The UK government is also developing a wireless infrastructure strategy to set a policy framework to support digital connectivity needs of the UK over the next decade and beyond, including the advent of 6G. As we develop the wireless infrastructure strategy, we will be considering what else we can do to support the development of 6G. This will include ensuring that the legal and regulatory framework is fit for purpose to support future wireless innovation.

We are enthusiastic to see what this EPSRC programme will facilitate and the possibilities it will open up in due course. Research and development in 6G is already under way internationally and this investment is a key step to ensuring a strategic UK approach to the future of wireless technology.

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