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5G RuralFirst

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UK-wide testbeds spearhead efforts to make the UK a 5G world leader

Many internet-enabled technologies – from autonomous tractors to digital tools for small businesses – offer tremendous economic development opportunities to rural communities in the UK, yet they are hindered by one thing. Connectivity. More specifically, a lack of secure, reliable mobile connectivity.

Geographically, only 63% of the UK has mobile data coverage from all of the four main providers, yet recent research highlights that increased usage of digital technologies in rural communities represents tens of billions of pounds’ worth of opportunity for the UK economy.

This is the challenge 5G RuralFirst – a project led by Cisco in partnership with a network of technology and research organisations including CENSIS – is setting out to solve. The project aims to deliver testbeds and trials to bring 5G benefits for rural communities and industries like agriculture, broadcasting, and utilities, with the aim of building the wider business case for 5G rural deployment.

Announced by the UK Government Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), 5G RuralFirst is part of the recent 5G testbed and trial competition to help position the UK as a global leader in 5G.

Based primarily on Orkney and in rural parts of Shropshire and Somerset, the project will integrate spectrum sharing strategies for 5G, bringing connectivity to rural communities, enabling smart farming in partnership with organisation such as Scotland’s Agri-EPI Centre (including drones, autonomous farm vehicles and remote veterinary inspections), and showcasing innovative methods of delivering broadcast radio over 5G working with the BBC;  alongside the delivery of 5G connectivity for Industrial IoT in utilities and other industries in rural areas.

CENSIS Business Development Director, Dr Mark Begbie said: “CENSIS is excited about the benefits 5G will bring to the Internet of Things, particularly in the industrial domain. We believe the trials programme will demonstrate the transformative value 5G can bring to IoT in sectors including advanced manufacturing and agriculture.”

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