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Accelerating 5G Open-RAN to meet the UK’s future communications needs to develop new telecoms networks for the UK

LONDON, UK - June 14, 2023 - A new, cutting-edge technology that will allow industries to deploy their own private, flexible, and secure 5G networks across their business areas is being developed by a consortium of companies from the UK.

The Secure 5G project is building a flexible platform that will enable companies to roll out and maintain their own quantum-safe private networks, with targeted applications for Industry 4.0, mobile edge computing (MEC), the Internet of Things (IoT) and highly secure environments, such as defence. The aim of Secure 5G is to reduce costs, while accelerating the pace of innovation, enabling faster roll-out of services and more secure communications via a UK sovereign supply chain. 

The project, funded through the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, involves a team from Compound Semiconductor Applications (CSA) Catapult, Lime Microsystems Ltd, Slipstream Engineering Design Ltd and Arqit.

Open radio access networks (RAN) resulting from the project are providing a more open and accessible 5G network architecture, improving competition, network flexibility and reducing costs. 

More and more network operators and enterprises are choosing to deploy Open RAN 5G networks as it prevents being locked in to using large vendors who currently offer highly proprietary solutions, whilst at the same time diversifying the supply chain and enabling more innovative and integrated technologies. 

As Open RAN mobile networks become more prevalent, larger, more complex there is a need for solutions that are inherently more secure, while offering a level of flexibility which enables them to adapt to emerging threats with far greater agility.

The platform developed through the Secure 5G project brings together a radio frequency (RF) power amplifier (Slipstream Engineering Design) with open-source network-in-a-box solution (Lime Microsystems), underpinned by a quantum-safe symmetric key agreement platform (Arqit) and state-of-the-art test and evaluation support (CSA Catapult). 

Secure 5G aims to bring many suppliers into the Open RAN ecosystem, diversifying and democratising 5G deployment using cost effective, programmable radio modules. The project also aims to empower network owners with the flexibility to maintain and upgrade services by running their applications at the very edge of the network, which could be anything from secure on-premises file sharing through to low latency machine learning. 

The flexibility and reconstruction of the system, coupled with processing power that is powerful enough to run resource intensive apps, will allow for further developments in hardware and services by the wider UK telecoms supply chain. 

The project will finish in June 2023 with the aim of commercialising the technology shortly afterwards. 

Minister for Data and Digital Infrastructure, Sir John Whittingdale, said:

“Harnessing the UK’s innovation and technological expertise will deliver the world-leading digital infrastructure that is so fundamental to growing our economy. The Secure 5G project will pave the way for more secure and competitive telecoms networks in the UK, benefiting industries across the board.

“This cutting-edge technology will accelerate that process while cutting business costs, boosting communications security, and supporting UK supply chains.”

Dr Ebrahim Bushehri, Lime Microsystems CEO, commented: “With the frequency bands allocated for mobile private networks (MPNs) varying from country to country, we see a significant opportunity for software-defined radios (SDR) and wideband PA technologies for frequency agile Radio Access Networks, which is at the heart of Secure 5G. The use of general-purpose processor (GPP) plus commodity Linux O/S platform meanwhile, has accelerated the integration of cutting-edge quantum-safe cryptography, providing an ideal solution for MPN deployments worldwide.”

Dr Mike Roberts, Technical Director and Co-founder of Slipstream Engineering Design said: “Slipstream Design has been delighted to secure funding as part of this consortium to support our research and development activity in the telecommunications sector. As an SME it was a major boost and allowed us to conduct highly innovative 5G product development with the backing of government. Power efficient, wideband operation is an area that constrains the flexibility of current telecommunication hardware. We aim to break through this technology barrier to enable wider network coverage in a more efficient and agile way.”

Sarah Gregory, Commercial Director of Slipstream Engineering Design said: “We have felt privileged to work alongside the other consortium members as well as DSIT in a truly collaborative project. The resulting wideband power amplifier technology developed by Slipstream Design has the potential to optimise radio unit hardware, reducing the need for variants in a way that speaks to the sustainability aims of the telecommunications sector.”

David Williams, Arqit Founder, Chairman and CEO said: “Arqit recently Co-authored the GSMA whitepaper on post quantum security and we are pleased to deploy our unique symmetric key agreement platform into this 5G project. Technology models for 5G and IoT are evolving rapidly but the edge cannot be secure without a new approach to encryption. Arqit delivers that.”

Nick Singh, Chief Technology Officer at CSA Catapult, said: “We were very pleased to participate in the Secure 5G project. Secure 5G will accelerate the pace of innovation and further enable secure communications via a UK sovereign supply chain. The technology developed by the consortium will accelerate Open-RAN through a powerful, secure and scalable 5G solution to meet the UK’s future communications needs. CSA Catapult’s role in the project was to provide state-of-the-art test and evaluation support. We look forward to seeing the commercialisation of this technology and the impact it makes to the wider UK telecoms supply chain.”

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This communication includes forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. All statements, other than statements of historical facts, may be forward-looking statements. These forward-looking statements are based on Arqit’s expectations and beliefs concerning future events and involve risks and uncertainties that may cause actual results to differ materially from current expectations. These factors are difficult to predict accurately and may be beyond Arqit’s control. Forward-looking statements in this communication or elsewhere speak only as of the date made. New uncertainties and risks arise from time to time, and it is impossible for Arqit to predict these events or how they may affect it. Except as required by law, Arqit does not have any duty to, and does not intend to, update or revise the forward-looking statements in this communication or elsewhere after the date this communication is issued. In light of these risks and uncertainties, investors should keep in mind that results, events or developments discussed in any forward-looking statement made in this communication may not occur. Uncertainties and risk factors that could affect Arqit’s future performance and cause results to differ from the forward-looking statements in this release include, but are not limited to: (i) the outcome of any legal proceedings that may be instituted against the Arqit related to the business combination, (ii) the ability to maintain the listing of Arqit’s securities on a national securities exchange, (iii) changes in the competitive and regulated industries in which Arqit operates, variations in operating performance across competitors and changes in laws and regulations affecting Arqit’s business, (iv) the ability to implement business plans, forecasts, and other expectations, and identify and realise additional opportunities, (v) the potential inability of Arqit to convert its pipeline into contracts or orders in backlog into revenue, (vi) the potential inability of Arqit to successfully deliver its operational technology, (vii) the risk of interruption or failure of Arqit’s information technology and communications system, (viii) the enforceability of Arqit’s intellectual property, and (ix) other risks and uncertainties set forth in the sections entitled “Risk Factors” and “Cautionary Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements” in Arqit’s annual report on Form 20-F (the “Form 20-F”), filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) on 14 December 2022 and in subsequent filings with the SEC. While the list of factors discussed above and in the Form 20-F and other SEC filings are considered representative, no such list should be considered to be a complete statement of all potential risks and uncertainties. Unlisted factors may present significant additional obstacles to the realisation of forward-looking statements.