UK vendor diversity task force calls for more vendor diversity

A task force commissioned by the UK government to look into telecoms vendor diversity has shocked everyone by concluding we need some.

So says the FT, which got an early look at a one of its reports. It recommends that, once Huawei is out of the UK’s telecoms networks, smaller vendors should provide a quarter of all the kit used in 5G networks. How this will be measured and enforced it unclear, but it seems to be a clear rubber-stamp of the western political drive towards OpenRAN tech.

This 25% target is loosely apportioned to the middle of this decade, implying the government is inclined to err more towards persuasion than force at this early stage. As all of us have discovered over the past year, however, that pendulum could swing any time. Smaller companies seems to refer to anyone except Ericsson and Nokia, but even then there seems to be wriggle room if either of them get into the spirit of OpenRAN.

It’s hard to know how seriously to take government-commissioned reports such as this, which is expected to be published later this week. Presumably the people compiling it have some sense of the desired outcome and are keen to be considered for future report compiling work. The fact that it was produced by an organisation that has a specific aspiration baked into its name just adds to our scepticism.

Ultimately this should be a matter for the market. If the smaller vendors come up with competitive kit then UK MNOs will consider using it. If they don’t then imposing sub-standard products on the UK’s telcos merely to hit some arbitrary threshold would be foolish and self-defeating.

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