No Huawei gear in vital 5G project to bring virtual-reality Robin Hood to Sherwood Forest

Rural trials will not use equipment 'from high risk vendors' says Ministry of Fun

Statue of Robin Hood in Nottingham, UK

The UK's Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS, aka the Ministry of Fun) has barred Huawei gear from rural 5G trials.

The department is funding nine pilots to the tune of £35m which aim to spread the benefits of 5G to rural communities. These range from a virtual-reality Robin Hood (and his Merrie Men) for visitors to Sherwood Forest to remote monitoring of woodland and livestock, and technology to reduce water pollution.

But the DCMS said today: "None of the winning projects, or future projects from 5G Create, will use equipment from high risk vendors." 5G Create is a competition running till the end of June to find 5G applications to support TV and film production, gaming and other creative industries.

This seems to be at odds with advice from GCHQ's National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), which calls for networks that rely on Huawei and other high-risk vendors (HRVs) to take a more measured approach. Current guidance is that less than 35 per cent of network access capacity, measured by traffic volume, should come from a HRV. Operators have three years to reach this target.

NCSC notes that use of HRV kit must balance two risks: the security risk of HRVs versus the need for diversity of supply.

GCHQ's cyber arm also recommended not using an HRV for any sensitive network or systems involved in critical infrastructure or to use more than one HRV on any network. It further called on telcos to include a minimum of two vendors on 4G and legacy networks – probably of more interest to most people trying to use their mobile phone in rural areas.

Other projects announced today include money to upgrade coastal rescue services in Dorset, mobile health and social care applications in Worcestershire, and research by Ford to improve welding processes used in electric car production.

The Multi Operator Neutral Host Consortium, run by Telet, has bagged £2.3m. It uses low-power small cell technology to create shared networks in areas not considered financially viable by mobile operators. It uses unused spectrum accessed by Ofcom's Local Access licensing. Networks can be used by mobile providers as well as any other users like emergency services or utilities.

We've asked DCMS to explain how a virtual-reality Robin Hood represents a core network function and will update if we hear back from them. ®

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