Last year we announced that we were setting out to deploy the most ambitious set of 5G rural trials ever attempted.
Last month we stood in front of over 200 industry figures and told them about our successes, our challenges and our plans for the future.
This was a day for everyone involved in this project to be proud of.
For months we have worked on addressing the challenges of connectivity in rural communities.
The team helped create and deploy the world’s first CUPS based packet core to support mobile edge computing in a rural location.
We launched the first 5G broadcast in Orkney, bringing 5G connectivity to families that had not even had reliable 3G previously!
CNN has written about the work we have done; the BBC has spoken about it on the radio; and our Me+Moo app has had over 11,000 downloads!
At Beyond the City, we had the chance to tell everyone about that work first-hand.
Here’s how it went.
Everything starts with a challenge
Opening the day was Adrian Gillespie, CFO, University of Strathclyde, who gave a very warm welcome to the room of over 200 guests. Nick Chrissos, Director of Innovation EMEAR, Cisco, then introduced the project. Running through how we have tracked against our early ambitions and some of the successes to date, the presentation set the scene for what was to follow.
Next up was Dez O’Connor, Senior Manager Mobility, Cisco. Starting with the important task of outlining the many challenges that face those trying to connect rural locations, Dez ran through everything from subsidies to operating costs.
After we had highlighted the number of challenges facing a 5G network build, Ian Smith, 5G Testbeds & Trials Programme Director, DCMS, gave a short speech on the Government’s motivation for becoming involved in 5G and our project. The entire project would not have been possible without the support from DCMS, so it was great to have Ian involved and showcasing the commitment the Government has to this project and others like it.
Talking about cows, tractors and 5G
Our first panel session of the day focussed on the trials that took place on the Shropshire and Somerset testbeds.
For this, we had Karina Maksimiuk and Duncan Forbes from Agri-Epi, Jonathan Gill from Harper Adams, Michael Gilroy from Afimilk and Ivan Andonovic from University of Strathclyde take part in a discussion, moderated by Ian Smith. The panel unpicked the business value that has been demonstrated in our agri-tech trials. From deploying 5G on a commercial dairy farm to showcasing precision agriculture that could be used globally to improve the profit margins of farmers, this panel showed those in attendance that 5G was an opportunity they could all take advantage of.
We couldn’t fit the cows on stage though, but download the Me+Moo app if you want to see how they are getting on.
The need for innovation
Next up to the stage was a very special guest, Mansoor Haniff, CTO, Ofcom.
Speaking about the importance of innovation in the telecoms industry, Mansoor provided some important context to the work we have been doing. To have Mansoor talk at this event was a real honour and a testament to the work that’s been done by the team to get to this point.
Picking up on the subject of innovation, our next speaker covered the impact that new attitudes towards Spectrum Sharing could have on rural connectivity. David Crawford, 5G Projects Director, University of Strathclyde, went into more detail about the successful demonstrations of this technology across the trials, stressing the importance of it to those in the room. As everyone on the day kept reminding the audience, these trials are not the end. We need everyone to take what we have learned and apply it to their own projects going forward.
The real value in rural connectivity
Taking the stage for the final panel, Andrew Murphy from the BBC, Stephen Speirs from Cisco, Greg Whitton from Cloudnet, Steve Hunt from Scottish Futures Trust and Malcolm Brew from the University of Strathclyde spoke about the amazing work done in Orkney.
The speakers went into more detail about everything from the BBC trial bringing 5G to families for the first time, to braving the weather to make the trials a success. What really came out of this panel was the value not only for businesses, but the impact 5G can have on the everyday lives of people living in these areas.
From challenge to opportunity to reality
The final presentation of the day was given by Stephen Speirs, CX Product Manager, Cisco. After a day of presenting challenges and opportunities, Stephen made the business case for rural connectivity. Looking at the impact of 5G on salmon farming and sustainable tourism, this presentation showed that 5G has the potential to radically improve revenue streams, not just make things a little faster!
Closing the event, Robert Stewart, Professor of Signal Processing at the University of Strathclyde, took to the stage to thank the guests, speakers and everyone who had made the day a success.
Another announcement made on the day was the exciting news that phase 2 has been approved, giving the 5G RuralFirst project the opportunity to extend some of the existing trials and launch new ones as well.
This was not only a good day for 5G RuralFirst or the communities we have been working with, it was a good day for everyone in the room. We wanted to share everything we have learnt, not because it’s the end, but because we want all of you to help with what comes next.
Taking this technology and bringing it to rural communities around the world is where everyone in that room and the industry should be focussed.