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Weekly update

17 April 2020

In our weekly update we aim to summarise the work we have been up to over the last week.

This week (the week commencing 22 June)

We held our first evidence session as part of our UK telecommunications infrastructure and the UK’s domestic capability inquiry. We sought to understand the potential of 5G, the technological complexities underpinning the different layers of the 5G network, and concerns relating to the network supply chain. We also considered the potential for OpenRAN technology for addressing barriers to market diversification, and the viability of OpenRAN for 5G roll-out.

We took evidence from:

  • Matthew Evans, Director (Markets), techUK;
  • Professor Dimitra Simeonidou, Professor of High Performance Networks, University of Bristol; and
  • Attilio Zani, Executive Director, Telecom Infra Project.

We asked a range of questions. Here are some of the key points from our session:

  • We heard that 5G has the potential to be revolutionary. Witnesses explained that the “internet of things” could enable technologies that could support agriculture, transport, helping to achieve ‘net-zero’, and could support health monitoring and social care.
  • We discussed the functions of the different components within the 5G network, and the concentrated supply chain for these components. We heard that there are significant barriers for new market entrants—such as high cost R&D requirements and commercial barriers.
  • We heard about the potential of open-source technologies to reduce “vendor lock-in" within the telecoms supply chain. These technologies which disaggregate hardware are in their early stages, however, and witnesses explained that any attempts to introduce new vendors now could delay 5G roll-out.

You can watch the session back on The transcript will be published next week on our website.

Commenting after our evidence session, our Chair, Rt Hon. Greg Clark MP, said:

“In order for the UK to take full advantage of 5G technology, it is crucial that we have a clear and balanced understanding of the technology’s uses and complexities. Harnessing 5G will undoubtedly benefit the UK and could be indispensable in boosting our economy post-pandemic. In our session, we heard of its possible applications in automation, agriculture and social care.

“However, it is of utmost importance that we consider the most secure and reliable method for rolling out 5G across the UK and do so in a way which benefits our economy and society. For this reason, I look forward to our future evidence sessions, in which we will search for an answer to these very important questions.”

Next steps

Following the evidence session, we will be writing to some witnesses with follow-up questions. We will publish their responses on our website. We will hold further evidence sessions on this inquiry in future weeks.

We are next meeting on Wednesday 1 July to hold our eleventh evidence session as part of our UK science, research and technology capability and influence in global disease outbreaks inquiry. We are focusing on vaccines and therapeutics. More information on the session is available on our website.

Published written evidence

This week we agreed to publish written evidence relating to our UK science, research and technology capability and influence in global disease outbreaks and commercial genomics inquiries.
We also published a letter from Lord Bethell with follow-up information from his evidence to us last week on ‘test and trace’. 

Other inquiries 

Please note we have extended the deadline for our inquiry, A new UK research funding agency, to Friday 31 July. 

Follow us on Twitter: @CommonsSTC    

Specific Committee information: / 020 7219 2793