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‘Four eyes’ line up in favour of open RAN for 5G and 6G

Julia Lopez MP DCMS.jpg

Four leading English-speaking economies have aligned their strategies for secure mobile infrastructure, continuing from the 5G era into 6G.

The countries are Australia, Canada, the UK and the US, four of the so-called “five eyes” that created an intelligence-sharing partnership towards the end of World War Two.

Capacity has asked people in a position to know why New Zealand is not included.

Julia Lopez (pictured), digital infrastructure minister in the UK government’s Department for Digital, Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) said: “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 agreement, announced this morning, follows a statement by Lopez at the Open RAN World conference in Berlin in April 2022. She outlined a set of principles there for future mobile networks:

· Open disaggregation, allowing elements of the RAN to be sourced from different suppliers.

· Standards-based compliance, allowing all suppliers to test solutions against standards in an open, neutral environment.

· Demonstrated interoperability, ensuring disaggregated elements work together as a fully functional system.

· Implementation neutrality, allowing suppliers to innovate and differentiate on the features and performance of their products.

DCMS said this morning that Australia, Canada and the US have backed these guidelines. “The three nations are the first to endorse the UK’s principles for the development of open RAN,” said the government. “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 announcement comes as the US said it would spend up to US$1.5 billion on funding operators to replace Huawei equipment with open RAN and other kit.

Security is a key element of today’s Australia-Canada-UK-US declaration. “We have a shared view that open and interoperable architectures should be secure,” says the joint statement.

“Security should be a core consideration throughout the entire lifecycle of relevant components and systems, including in the design, development, deployment, operation and decommissioning stages.”

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.”

This is the latest stage in a process the UK has been going through since early 2020, when Nicky Morgan, then the senior minister at DCMS, classified Huawei as a “high-risk vendor”. That was the first stage in gradually excluding Huawei from 5G networks in the UK, but Morgan and others realised that left network operators reliant on a duopoly of Ericsson and Nokia for radio access network (RAN) supplies.

This was followed by the UK’s 5G Supply Chain Diversification Strategy, published November 2020 and backed by a £250 million Open Networks Fund.

That put the UK government firmly in favour of open RAN and said it “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”.

The UK government’s aim is to increase the share of open and interoperable equipment in UK networks to 35% by 2030.

The move won the explicit support of Clare O’Neil, Australia’s minister for home affairs and minister for cyber security. She 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.”