Orkneys to Trial Gigabit Speed 5G Mobile Network

5G Mobile Network, Orkneys, Perthshire, Inverness-shire

The Orkney islands will be one of the first places in the UK to benefit from ultrafast 5G mobile coverage, thanks to a £25 million UK government competition.

The Orkneys are not necessarily the first place you would think of when considering the future of mobile telecommunications. However, the islands are about to become a pioneer of ultrafast 5th generation (5G) mobile networks, thanks to telecoms giant Cisco and Strathclyde University.

5G RuralFirst5G RuralFirst, led by Cisco, with  the University of Strathclyde as lead partner, won a £4.3 million grant as part of the UK government’s competition to introduce gigabit-speed 5G coverage cross the country. The project will deliver testbeds and trials to exploit 5G benefits for rural communities and industries including agriculture, broadcasting, and utilities, to address the challenges of introducing 5G infrastructure and to build a solid business case for rural deployment of 5G.

The 5G RuralFirst project, will integrate spectrum-sharing strategies for 5G to:

  • bring connectivity to rural communities
  • enable smart farming  – in partnership with Agri-Epi Centre (including drones, autonomous farm vehicles and remote veterinary inspections)
  • investigate innovative methods of delivering broadcast radio over 5G working with the BBC
  • deliver 5G connectivity for Internet of Things (IoT) in utility and other industries in rural areas

Scot Gardner, Chief Executive of Cisco UK & Ireland said:

“5G has huge interest, but now we have to make it real – not just for cities but for everyone, including into rural communities. It is fantastic to see the government investing in research and development that helps the UK to lead in such a crucial space.

“Digital economies rely on connectivity so the UK can’t sit and wait. We need to be trialling now, understanding what 5G can do right across the UK. 5G RuralFirst looks to do just that. With live trials in Orkney, Shropshire and Somerset it will not only benefit those communities, but help the entire UK better understand what 5G makes possible, as well as the challenges there are in delivering world-class connectivity to all corners of the nation.”

5G Rural Integrated Testbed (5GRIT)

In addition to the Orkneys, areas in Inverness-shire and Perthshire will also be involved in trials of 5G technology across a range of rural applications, such as smart agriculture, tourism and connecting poorly-served communities, using shared spectrum in the TV bands and a mix of local ISPs and self-provision.

The aim of the 5GRIT project is to make high quality connectivity available in rural areas. The consortium behind the project will develop 5G-ready Augmented Reality (AR) apps for tourists and investigate how high-bandwidth wireless connectivity can increase food production in farming, including through use of AR and an unmanned aerial system.

Steve Jagger, Managing Director of Quickline Communications, the lead organisation for 5GRIT said:

“We feel that 5G can unlock the potential of rural areas through better connections for residents, businesses, farmers and visitors. Our consortium brings together innovative businesses and leading Universities to make the 5G dream a rural reality.”

UK Digital Strategy

The 5G RuralFirst and 5GRIT projects are just two of six projects across the UK which will focus on the introduction of new 5G networks. They are part of a £1 billion commitment through the UK government’s Digital Strategy to keep Britain at the forefront of connectivity by accelerating the deployment of next generation digital infrastructure and driving forward new 5G business opportunities.

Launched in March 2017, the goal of the Digital Strategy is to continually drive the UK’s connectivity, telecommunications and digital sectors, and invest in industries, infrastructure and skills.

Infrastructure is also one of the key foundations of the government’s Industrial Strategy, both of which seek to create the conditions to enable the UK’s digital economy to thrive; through overcoming barriers to growth and promoting more high-skilled, high-paid jobs of the future.

Each 5G testbed will receive between £2 million and £5 million in government grants, as part of a total investment of £41m from private sector and other public sector funding, to explore new fifth generation mobile communications technologies that use high frequency spectrum to deliver internet speeds of over a gigabit per second.

Margot James, Minister of State for Digital and the Creative Industries, said:

“One year on from the Digital Strategy, we are delivering on our commitments to create a Britain fit for the future, with a thriving digital economy that works for everyone.

“The ground-breaking projects announced today will help to unlock 5G and ensure the benefits of this new technology are felt across the economy and wider society.”

Professor Rahim Tafazolli, Founder and Director of 5GIC and leader of 5GUK Networks said:

“The 5G Innovation Centre is extremely pleased and proud to have been able to play a leading part in in supporting the DCMS UK 5G testbeds and trials programme.

“5G represents a fundamental transformation of the role that mobile technology plays in society, delivering rich new services in sectors such as finance, transport, retail and health. It will drive trillions of dollars of additional activity through the world digital economy and the DCMS programme will ensure that the UK stays at the forefront of this exciting global race.”

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