Announcing the 5G RuralFirst Orkney Test Locations – Part 2

In my last blog I introduced a few of the tests and trials that will take place in Orkney.  In particular, I described the five locations where we will deliver high speed mobile broadband services, and details of the new broadcast over 5G trial being led by the BBC. In this blog I’ll be exploring a few more of the test sites across Orkney.

As mentioned in my previous blog we are running a research project and while we believe that each use case will be successful, there is no guarantee that they will work successfully – which is precisely why we are running these tests! As we battle through the the winter months in one of the most remote parts of the UK, we come up against uncontrollable external factors that could potentially change the outcome of the project.

Ferry Connect

We have decided to use 26GHz/mmWave pre-5G radios to deliver backhaul connectivity for a ferry operating between two of the Orkney Islands, filling a gap at one end of the journey where the ship loses WiFi from the main port.

The intention is, therefore, to set up a link from the shore to a ferry to provide Wi Fi connectivity for the ship’s crew within about 1.5 km from the base station. The ferry, which is owned by Orkney Ferries, operates on a route between Kirkwall and Shapinsay, and already has connectivity via an outdoor Wi Fi link connecting it to the pier at Kirkwall. However, as the ferry approaches Shapinsay, it loses contact with the Wi Fi access point at Kirkwall, so the plan is to deploy the mmWave base station near the pier at Shapinsay and provide connectivity when the ferry is in the vicinity of Shapinsay.

This will be a challenging use case, as the high frequency signals will be transmitted over the sea to a slowly moving object (the ferry) using steerable beam technology and mmWave radio. Delivery of 5G to a moving ferry could be a world first for the project!

Economic Small Cell Deployment

There’s “more than one way to skin a cat” as they say, and the same is true for rural connectivity.  How can we as an industry “empower” local communities, for example with regard to installation and maintenance of mobile network capability? One of the real challenges of rural connectivity is maintenance – how can a service provider ensure that staff can get quick access to remote areas to fix problems that may occur?  How can we engage the local community on the islands to fix problems where feasible, to save the wait for skilled workers from the mainland? This will be vital as the wild and windy Scottish weather and harsh seas can stop people travelling to the islands.

Working with BT, 5G RuralFirst will feature an innovative low cost disaggregated small cell radio, which can be installed by the local community – and in our case CloudNet Solutions in Orkney. This will deliver 4G services to the “not spot” area of East Mainland, Orkney’s biggest island, and use the Nokia Kuha OSS for local management.  This will be connected to the main BT network via Cisco’s 5G core. Simple internet connectivity is all that is required to connect this 4G solution, genuinely enabling local communities to bring their own network.

LiFi – Alternative Internet Access

With spectrum access one of the key challenges facing smaller so-called “neutral host” operators, it makes sense to consider alternatives.  One such technology is LiFi which enables internet access via light – in particular LEDs.  In this test case, we will test the viability of LiFi (Infra-red) in harsh rural environments by connecting rural properties using solar panels as receivers, to deliver internal broadband via LiFi access points in the selected trial houses.  Such solar panel usage will be a world first and involve connecting a number of properties on the Isle of Graemsay.

IoT-Enabled Use Cases

Since starting the 5G RuralFirst project, CENSIS, the Glasgow-based Centre of Excellence for Sensor and Imaging Systems technologies, and Orkney-based CloudNet have been engaging local businesses in Orkney to identify opportunities where IoT integrated with 5G can deliver important business productivity improvements. We’ve now designed solutions to test and demonstrate the following IoT use cases integrated with the Cisco 5G Cloud core network, supporting key industries of tourism, health, aquaculture (salmon farming) and renewable energy (wind farms).

Optimised Tourism

Despite having only 20,000 inhabitants, the Orkney Islands received over 175,000 tourist visitors last year – many arriving en masse via cruise liners. Tourist density at hot spots such as the Ring of Brodgar and Skara Brae can be a challenge and the source of occasional visitor dissatisfaction. Through deploying connectivity to tour buses, used on the route from Kirkwall to these sites, we will enable passengers to access dynamic content delivered by Historic Environment Scotland.  The connectivity will help to manage tourist density during peak times, enabling Historic Scotland to deliver an enhanced visitor experience.

Legionella Detection

We will be using IoT sensors to monitor the temperature of water in a local school to ensure it does not reach the optimum for legionella bacteria growth. This provides a cost-effective solution for health & safety compliance and delivers health & safety improvements to the community.

Aquaculture Health Monitoring

Farmed salmon is not just Scotland’s biggest food export, Scottish farmed salmon is the UK’s largest food export by value, and therefore a major contributor to our national economy. Despite this being a tech heavy industry, deployment today is seriously constrained by limited connectivity. We will use IoT sensors to measure parameters such as pH, dissolved oxygen, salinity and temperature inside and outside of the salmon cages. This is vital as exceeded parameters can pose a serious risk of death to the fish stocks.

Connected Wind Farm

IoT sensors will enable high value equipment integrity monitoring as well as weather and wind speed monitoring.  Installing this technology could help identify potentially dangerous weather conditions to enable appropriate action to be taken and minimise impact.  This in turn could reduce insurance premiums, helping to improve the efficiency of wind farms.  This use case will run on the Hammars Hill wind farm, operated by Orkney Sustainable Energy Ltd.


Figure 3: Hammer’s Hill Windfarm on Orkney

Summing Up

As you can see, we have developed a wide range of use cases to trial in our 5G testbed.  Each use case makes a contribution to either the technology that will help solve rural connectivity, or present new business models available to service providers to help justify connectivity in rural parts.  We’ve chosen to partner with local industry including tourism, renewable energy and salmon farming –strategic industries not just for Scotland, but for the UK as a whole.

In 5G RuralFirst, we believe it’s time to re-examine the case for connectivity in rural areas.  It’s time to look at the economic activity in an area and not just the number of people who live there.  It’s time to look beyond the city.

Thanks To….

While there are many people across the various partners of the 5G RuralFirst organisations who are working on these use cases, a particular thanks to Greg Whitten of CloudNet, David Crawford of the University of Strathclyde and the Hamish Stewart of PureLiFi, who helped provide the data to help write this blog.


October 31, 2018 in Broadcast, Community and Infrastructure