UK backs programme to identify private 5G opportunities for SMEs

Julia Lopez DCMS.jpg

The UK government has hired a London innovation centre to find ways of diversifying the telecoms market, especially in private 5G networks.

Julia Lopez (pictured), minister of state at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), announced the initiative at a conference this morning organised by TechUK. It will be focused on encouraging small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to come into the business.

Lopez announced that the work will be carried out by Plexal, an innovation company based in the former media centre for the 2012 London Olympics – now the home of the London Office for Rapid Cybersecurity Advancement (Lorca).

A Conservative politician who represents an east London area of Hornchurch and Upminster, Lopez did not say how much DCMS was contributing to the programme.

Andrew Roughan, managing director of Plexal, said: “We think there’s a big opportunity to understand and develop the role of SMEs in the telecoms market. Our open collaboration model, which is bringing industry, the government and SMEs together in a pre-competitive environment, is a novel way to approach the challenge of how the UK creates a diverse telecoms market that supports the creation of homegrown, sovereign technology.”

Plexal said that, through its Lorca programme, it has worked with leaders from the telecoms market to assess where there could be opportunities for SMEs to provide products or services. Its new project, as announced by Lopez this morning, will last 12 weeks – which it describes as a “sprint” – and will aim at “developing robust business cases, technology roadmaps and investment plans”, said the company.

“The aim is to create a diverse commercial ecosystem for private 5G networks that enables large and small vendors to play a role.”

Plexal aid it will work with the SMEs as well as with government and industry “to carve out and develop opportunities and overcome any barriers that exist for start-ups to play an active role in the telecoms market”.

It added: “These barriers could include making sure the products are interoperable and have robust cyber security built in.”

Among Plexal’s existing activities is working with the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) on a programme called NCSC For Startups. Plexal was founded in 2017 by clients of specialist real estate investment advisory company Delancey.