UK government listens to REASON by giving £12m to 6G project

One of the more intriguing recipients of this week’s UK government telecoms spending spree was Bristol University’s REASON initiative.

It stands for Realising Enabling Architectures and Solutions for Open Networks, which isn’t bad as far as forced acronyms go. Its aim is to bring together a broad ecosystem of stakeholders in the entire telecoms R&D supply chain to develop a roadmap for open 6G networks. On one level this seems to be an attempt to take the Open RAN concepts to the next level but, no doubt, it’s a bit more complicated than that.

“REASON will address key technological challenges of delivering end-to-end open network solutions, considering all segments of the network,” said project lead, Professor Dimitra Simeonidou, of Bristol’s Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering (pictured with the team and UK Digital Secratary Michelle Donelan above). “The project will pursue breakthroughs on elevating bottlenecks of current systems, such as interoperability, agility, sustainability, resilience, security, and will position UK-born technologies as candidates for delivering future solutions.”

REASON is getting just short of £12 million, which is part of £110 million set aside for the winners of the UK government’s Future Open Networks Research Challenge. The whole initiative is positioned as a general 5G/6G development push, but much of the rhetoric around it points to a particular focus on ‘open’ stuff. It seems safe to assume that all the winners made all the right noises in that direction in their pitches.

As well as the usual suspect vendors you would expect to be involved in the REASON project, it also features Web3 startup Weaver Labs, which develops blockchain technology to democratize access to telecoms infrastructure. You can find out more about Weaver Labs in this podcast with co-Founder Maria Lema as well as our more recent interview with her.

“Weaver Labs is committed to breaking down silos in the telco sector and opening the marketplace back up to new owners of infrastructure – to achieve this it’s important to foster collaboration,” said Lema. “With this in mind, we’re proud to be leading on the project’s cybersecurity strategy (which includes governance and risk assessment) and working with some of the world’s biggest telco vendors and institutions in order to drive real world impact.”

While its refreshing to see public money spent on something potentially useful, the scope of REASON seems very broad. Furthermore it’s often unclear what the objectives and exit strategy of state-funded initiatives like this are. What will happen to it when the money runs out? Are any commercially viable outcomes expected or will it just be thrown into the general R&D mix? Who will own the resulting intellectual property? Perhaps a UK government Minister would care to enlighten us in the comments section below.


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