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Rural 5G projects win shares of £35 million fund


Mark Say Managing Editor

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A group of public sector projects in rural areas have won financial backing from the Government in its latest round of support for the development of 5G.

Funding will be provided for initiatives in North Yorkshire, West Mercia, Nottinghamshire, Dorset and south-east Wales from a £35 million package as part of a wider £65 million deal for trials of the technology.

The Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) announced the move, saying it is part of the effort to “level up” infrastructure across the UK.

Among the beneficiaries is the Mobile Access North Yorkshire (MANY) project, which has received £4.4 million to support the development of rural connectivity in the county through apps and services developed for rural areas. These will focus on tourism, mental health, coverage for emergency services and environmental management.

The project, led by Quickline Communications, will involve building small mobile networks in areas that currently have no coverage, and aiming to understand how public, private and community sectors to work together to reduce the cost of delivering mobile access.

West Mercia effort

West Mercia Rural 5G has received £3.3 million to explore infrastructure challenges in planning, building and operating a network, and to look at how it can be used for health and social care applications.

The project is led by Worcestershire County Council and involves neighbouring Shropshire, local universities and NHS organisations, and network providers Airband and Three.

Nottinghamshire County Council is involved in the 5G Connected Forest programme, which has received £5 million to explore applications in the preservation of forests and to provide a better experience for visitors. This can include robotic environmental management and non-intrusive live monitoring of the health of the woodland.

The project is centred on Sherwood Forest.

DCMS has allocated £2.4 million to the Multi Operator Neutral Host (MONeH) project, involving a consortium of companies led by Telet Research, CH4LKE Mobile and Associated Networks. It is aiming to demonstrate how multi-operator, neutral host cellular networks based on small cell technology can provide multiple user slices to serve different customer groups in rural areas.

The department has also pledged £4.3 million to 5G RuralDorset programme, which is investigating the potential in improving safety in coastal areas and developing new agricultural technologies for purposes such as tracking crop growth, monitoring livestock and reducing water pollution.

Using spectrum

The 5G New Thinking project has received £5 million to look at mobile connectivity using shared and local spectrum licensing. It will develop a community toolkit for the creation of networks, with the early demonstrators focused on the Orkney Island.

Another £5 million is going to the Connected Communities in the Rural Economy (CoCoRE) programme, focused on south-east Wales and looking at how 5G can open up new opportunities for businesses and citizens. This involves exploring the use of new technologies such as AI and the internet of things in areas such as immersive tourism and farming security.

Commenting on the whole programme, Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “We’re determined to make the UK a world-leader in 5G and deliver on our promise to improve connections for people and businesses across the country.

“Today we’re announcing new funding to seize the new opportunities this technology will offer us.

“This includes seeing how it could create new jobs in the countryside, make businesses more productive and unleash even more ideas in our cutting edge creative industries.”

Image by Olak Kosinsky, CC BY SA 3.0 through Wikimedia

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