UK Awards Over £6.6 Million in Research Leading to 6G

September 18, 2023

Written by Caio Castro
CATEGORY: Exclusives

The United Kingdom’s Department for Science, Innovation and Technology has awarded £6.61 million (USD 8.2 million) to three projects whose outcomes promise to benefit future 6G networks, according to the researchers leading them.

BT, Keysight, Viavi, and institutions such as the University of York and the King’s College London are among the recipients.

The selected projects are part of the Open Networks Ecosystem (ONE) Competition, a public funding opportunity that granted £88 million (USD 109 million) to 19 projects. They aim to demonstrate the reliability and feasibility of Open Radio Access Network (RAN) technologies.

“The projects we’re backing today will use innovative Open RAN solutions to make our mobile networks more adaptable and resilient, with future-proofed technology to support bringing lightning-fast connections across the country for many years to come,” said Sir John Whittingdale, Minister for Data and Digital Infrastructure.

Research topics range from components to energy efficiency and networks. Even though the government programme is not 6G-focused, stakeholders acknowledge they have the future generation of mobile internet in mind when running the projects.

“There is a clear demand for high-performance energy-efficient 5G/6G components,” observed Fraser Burton, Senior Manager of Network Physics at BT. “Novel material fabrication can significantly reduce the energy consumption of terrestrial wireless communications whilst also delivering improved RF performance.”

The three projects below cited 6G as a direct beneficiary – however, others can also contribute to future networks. You can check the complete list of accepted works here.

5G SWaP+C (Size, Weight and Power + Cost)

Location: South Wales and Ipswich

Funding amount: £1,211,896.55

Partners: BT, Space Forge and Compound Semiconductor Applications Catapult

The project focuses on producing and utilising alternative ultra-wide band gap materials alongside RF GaN to create state-of-the-art, efficient power amplifiers. Overall, the 5G SWaP-C project aims to pave the way for advanced wireless communication systems, delivering faster and more efficient connectivity while supporting the UK’s economic growth and national security.

Energy-efficient Composable Optical Topologies for Assembled Processing (ECO-TAP):

Location: Leeds and London

Funding amount: £2.26 million

Partners: Ultracell Networks Ltd / King’s College London

The ECO-TAP project’s vision is to improve the energy efficiency of the networks that interconnect disaggregated servers in data centres (that is, bespoke racks of only CPUs or memory or network interface cards) by introducing a new Hybrid Cellular-Switched Topology. Doing this will also improve the resource utilisation of servers through disaggregation.

Reach (Blackpool)

Location: Blackpool, Yorkshire, Lincolnshire

Funding amount: £3,144,056

Partners: University of York, Cybermoor 5G Services Ltd, Quickline Communications Ltd, Viavi Solutions Ltd, Virgin Media O2 UK Ltd, SafeNetics Ltd, Blackpool Council

The project will enhance different aspects of data delivery by developing new tools (xApps and rApps) for an intelligent controller (RIC). It will deliver three distinct Open RAN High-Density Demand trials demonstrating the technology using realistic data. The researchers will evaluate and trial massive MIMO for multi-tower Gigabit MIMO fixed wireless access architectures.

National Goals

The UK government and Mobile Network Operators (MNO) aim to have, in aggregate, 35% of the UK’s network traffic carried over open and interoperable RAN architectures by 2030.

The projects will follow four principles:

  • Open disaggregation, allowing elements of the RAN to be sourced from different suppliers and implemented in new ways
  • 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 – at a minimum matching the performance and security of current solutions
  • Implementation neutrality, allowing suppliers to innovate and differentiate on the features and performance of their products

The selected projects will run until March 2025.

Featured image by Nicholas Hatherly/Pexels

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