UK national telecoms research lab opens in Solihull

Digital transformation

The new UK Telecommunications Lab is a research facility intended to bring together operators, suppliers and academics to brainstorm and testbed ideas related to mobile networks.

UK Tech Minister Damian Collins attended Birmingham Tech Festival to announce the new lab based in Solihull near Birmingham, which is supposed to be the first of its kind in the UK. The idea is it will provide a secure research hub where operators, suppliers and academics can pitch up and test out telecoms inventions, which might be in the pursuit of boosting security or increasing performance.

There’s a fair amount made of the extra jobs this will create in the area, but the general motivation behind setting up a national research facility at all seems to be around both rolling out new mobile technologies quicker (it references 6G as on the horizon), but also that since the country is ‘more dependent on telecoms infrastructure’ now, the hub can help with ‘identifying national security risks and vulnerabilities and ensuring vital equipment and software are protected against cyber attacks.’

Obviously some of the bigger firms in the space already have their own R&D facilities in which they can tinker around with the next shiny feature or work on ironing out security vulnerabilities. This lab is also supposed to help new businesses enter the UK telecoms market by way of testing out products to ensure equipment is fully interoperable, which would seem to be of particular relevant to Open RAN development and which the announcement says ‘is increasingly important to the government’s £250 million strategy to diversify the UK 5G telecoms market.’

“After this summer’s stunning Commonwealth Games it is great to feel the buzz in the city yet again in Birmingham Tech Week,” said Tech Minister Damian Collins. “Fast-growing firms are cementing Birmingham’s status as a tech powerhouse – boosting jobs and spreading economic growth right across the West Midlands. There is no better home for the new UK Telecoms Lab, which will turn the region into a centre for expertise and innovation in the security of next-generation mobile networks.”

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands added: “Tech is one of the most exciting and fastest growing sectors in our region. This fantastic announcement that Solihull will be the home of the new UK Telecoms Lab yet again underlines the strength of this important sector for us here in the West Midlands. The Lab will bring a wide range of stakeholders together to drive innovation and create high quality new jobs for local people. As we mark Birmingham Tech Week, it’s a great time to remember that we are at the cutting edge and – with our tech sector already valued at over £15 billion – we have an exciting future ahead of us.”

It’s also been announced today the government is getting involved in trials to create a ‘network of networks’, via some DCMS funding. The project is led by VMO2, and its mission is to trial a new secure network connection capability for integrating private and public networks, which is supposed to ease the way for tier 2 RAN vendors to enter the market, which again ties into the government’s diversification agenda.

“This is a significant first step in our mission to create new solutions that provide vendor agnostic integration capability, driving forward the secure connectivity for private networks, and helping to deliver on the promise of 5G “network of networks”,” said Dr David Owens, Head of Technical Trials at Virgin Media O2 and the 5G DRIVE project lead. “The ambition of the 5G DRIVE project is that it will provide a scalable solution, that doesn’t impact public networks and will deliver carrier grade security, something we are all incredibly excited about.”

It seems the government is happy top splash some cash on various telecoms projects at the present moment, particularly if they are about making sure the security of UK networks is up to snuff, or if they are about ‘diversification’, or widening the pool of firms that are involved in the production of next generation networks.


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One comment

  1. Avatar alan j smith 26/10/2022 @ 5:42 pm

    How do we stop great british ideas being exploited by over seas companies?…

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