Cisco announced that it will lead a key project to create complete end-to-end rural 5G testbed system for trials of new wireless and networking technologies, spectrum sharing, new applications and services.
The UK government funded testbed, 5G RuralFirst, aims to stimulate new business models, all with a focus on testing and demonstrating innovative approaches for ensuring that 5G connectivity is accessible and affordable in hard-to-reach rural areas in the country.
It will explore the benefits of 5G for rural communities and industries like agriculture, broadcasting, and utilities. It will also look to address the barriers to, and build the business case for, investment in 5G rural deployment.
Testbeds and trials for the project will primarily be based on the Orkney islands to the very north of Scotland, and the farmlands of Somerset and Shropshire. The locations will be linked to the distributed Cisco 5G cloud platform at DataVita’s Tier III data centre facility near Glasgow and will collaborate with the wider 5G UK ecosystem with the University of Surrey 5G Innovation Centre (5GIC).
The project will look to support and inform the development of the UK's 5G eco-system so that it is able to address the needs and aspirations of communities and businesses in rural locations in ways that 4G, 3G, and 2G have not been able to do.
Key use cases:
- Broadcast radio delivered over 5G with the BBC – the BBC believes internet-based delivery will become increasingly important to broadcasting. It will use the 5G testbed on Orkney to trial the capabilities of 5G to deliver traditional radio and new forms of BBC audio content over these new technologies.
- Smart farming in partnership with Agri-EPI Centre – 72% of the UK’s area is utilised for agricultural production, and the agri-food sector is an important contributor to UK GVA (over £112B per annum) . The trial will help provide significant opportunities to transform UK agriculture into a smart, high-tech industry, through innovations in sensors & remote diagnostics, data collection, UAVs (drones), wider precision farming techniques and autonomous vehicles.
- IoT in Utilities and Environment Management – Electrical utilities and energy providers (wind, wave and solar), water companies, environmental monitoring, oil and gas industries – all have requirements for both general reliable data communications alongside low bit-rate, but high reliability and high security data communications for IoT (internet of things) in very remote areas. This will be addressed via network slicing and network edge data aggregation for 5G networks, alongside coverage trials and investigation.
- Dynamic Shared Spectrum development and trial – this potentially disruptive work led by the University of Strathclyde and others seeks to demonstrate the applicability of dynamic and shared spectrum technologies for 5G communications in rural areas, coupled with the deployment of low cost software-defined radio technologies, both with the intention of lowering the cost of future rural 5G communications deployment and presenting the opportunity for network self-provisioning.