North Wales will be a trial site for new 5G technology as part of moves to remove Chinese firm Huawei from the network.
Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden will today say operators must stop installing any Huawei equipment in 5G networks from the end of September 2021.
In July, in response to US sanctions, the government announced that operators should stop procuring new equipment from the company by the end of 2020 and remove all Huawei equipment by the end of 2027.
Today the Digital Secretary will also publish a new 5G Supply Chain Diversification Strategy outlining the Government’s approach to building a resilient, open and sustainable supply chain.
The minister said Wales will be at the centre of that.
He said: “Today we are announcing plans to put Wales at the forefront of our 5G revolution with a world-first partnership between the UK government and Japanese telecoms firm NEC.
“Sites across North Wales will trial new ways to build cutting-edge telecoms technology in an important step for 5G in the UK.”
The NEC NeutrORAN trial project rolled out first in Wales 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.
With Spain’s Cellnex and the US’s Cisco also taking part in the trial, and UK firm Vodafone having committed to deliver Open RAN across hundreds of sites in Wales from 2022, this should be good news for mobile users and the Welsh economy by improving digital connectivity.
Open Radio Access Network (Open RAN) technology is a new way of building telecoms networks where components from different suppliers can be used in a single mobile network, specifically the radio access section – the part of the network that connects mobile phones to masts.
It is based on common standards that seek to split out hardware and software elements of the network and encourage interoperability across and between suppliers. This hands mobile operators more choice, flexibility and control of their networks and allows them to choose the best equipment to suit their particular requirements or needs.
Mr Dowden said: “The new pioneering project we are announcing today with NEC brings us another step closer to the lightning fast internet speeds and revolutionary data carrying capabilities of new digital connectivity.
“And it is another example of the strength of our union – delivering jobs, improving security and improving people’s lives by working together as one United Kingdom.
“More broadly it will cement Britain’s place as a global innovator. The ideas starting in Wales today could in future be rolled out around the world. They could be used to deliver ultra-high-speed broadband to rural communities facing some of our biggest connectivity challenges. Or they could be used to help businesses build their own secure, private networks to adopt advanced manufacturing practices.
“This exciting new project with NEC is just one part of our ambitious plans for the future of UK telecoms, set out in the Diversification Strategy published today and comes as MPs begin debating our Telecommunications (Security) Bill in parliament.”
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The strategy sets out a number of targeted measures the government will be taking forward: These include:
- 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.