£25m to explore 5G connectivity

Rural areas are to benefit from a share of £25m in funding to explore the benefits of 5G digital connectivity.

5G technology is the next step up from 4G – and allows high speed communications at internet speeds of over a gigabit per second.

The funding will bring together enterprises, universities and local authorities who will work on a number of “testbed” projects examining 5G opportunities.

Researchers will test the technology across a range of applications – including healthcare in the home, rural tourism and agriculture.


They are part of a £1bn commitment through the government's Digital Strategy to keep Britain at the forefront of digital connectivity.

Margot James, Minister of State for Digital and the Creative Industries, said the goal was to ensure the benefits of 5G technology were felt across the economy and wider society.

Each 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.

5GUK Networks leader Rahim Tafazolli the mobile technology promised rich new services in sectors such as finance, transport, retail and health.

Led by Cisco and lead partner University of Strathclyde, a 5G RuralFirst testbed will look to exploit 5G benefits for rural communities and industries like agriculture, broadcasting, and utilities.

Based primarily on the Orkney Islands, and in rural Shropshire and Somerset, the project will examine ways of bringing 5G connectivity to countryside communities.

    Broadcast radio

It will also look at innovative methods of delivering broadcast radio over 5G with the BBC.

Cisco UK & Ireland chief executive Scot Gardner said: “5G has huge interest, but now we have to make it real – not just for cities but for everyone, including into rural communities.

Trials in Orkney, Shropshire and Somerset would help the UK better understand what 5G makes possible – as well as benefiting those communities.

Meanwhile, a 5G Rural Integrated Testbed (5GRIT) will trial 5G technology across a range of rural applications, such as smart agriculture, tourism and connecting poorly-served communities.

The aim is to ultimately make high quality connectivity available across Cumbria, Northumberland, North Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, Inverness-shire, Perthshire and Monmouthshire.

Quickline Communications managing director Steve Jagger said the consortium could “make the 5G dream a reality”.

He said: “We feel that 5G can unlock the potential of rural areas through better connections for residents, businesses, farmers and visitors.


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