Australia, Canada and the United States have backed guidelines for telecoms companies, developed by the UK, designed to build a more innovative, competitive and secure supply of equipment for telecoms networks, including for 5G and 6G.
The three nations are the first to endorse the UK’s principles for the development of Open RAN – a new breed of telecoms kit which allows providers to ‘mix and match’ solutions from multiple vendors which is not possible under current network setups.
The joint statement will send a clear signal to telecoms firms across the globe about how the four countries would like to see the benefits of Open RAN realised.
The move will boost efforts to reduce the world’s dependency on a small number of telecoms companies to build and maintain 5G and future networks, and help open up the global market to new entrants.
5G connectivity will revolutionise people’s daily lives and boost business productivity through much faster internet speeds, as well as underpinning new technologies such as driverless cars, improved artificial intelligence and precision healthcare.
Digital Infrastructure Minister Julia Lopez said:
We are investing £250 million to put the UK at the forefront of 5G innovation so more people and businesses can benefit from improved and secure connectivity.
The UK has set out a blueprint for telecoms firms across the world to design more open and secure networks. With the endorsement of Australia, Canada and the United States, the industry now has the clarity it needs to deliver a new generation of wireless infrastructure fit for the future.
The joint statement coincides with the one-year anniversary of the 2021 Prague Proposals on Telecommunications Supplier Diversity and goes one step further by setting out an intention to collaborate across a number of areas, ranging from sharing information on respective approaches to telecoms diversification, through to research and development.
This partnership will not only help secure current networks, but also future networks looking towards 6G and beyond.
The 5G Supply Chain Diversification Strategy, published November 2020 and backed by the £250 million Open Networks Fund, sets out where the government will remove barriers for new vendors, invest in open and interoperable solutions such as Open RAN and work with like-minded countries to achieve the shared aim for secure and resilient telecoms supply chains.
Strong progress has been made since publication of the UK’s Diversification Strategy, with the government announcing research and development interventions such as the Future RAN Competition (FRANC) which will see up to £36 million of funding made available, and the SmartRAN Open Network Interoperability Centre (SONIC) which opened its doors in June 2021.
The government has previously announced a joint ambition with UK mobile network operators to increase the share of open and interoperable equipment in UK networks to 35 per cent by 2030, and positive progress has been seen from industry since then with, for example, Vodafone and Telefonica deploying their first live Open RAN sites using new market entrants.
Claire O’Neil MP, Australia Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Cyber Security, said:
This Joint Statement underscores Australia’s continued commitment to working alongside some of our closest international partners to cooperate on areas of mutual interest and concern, including on the security and resilience of telecommunication.