Just under a year ago, we began working with some of the most innovative and ambitious partners we could find.
The purpose was simple.
We wanted to take 5G away from the tech conference banners and into rural communities, where we knew it could make a real difference to residents and businesses.
A lot has happened in that time!
Ultimately, we set up 5G testbeds in some of the UK’s most remote areas: Orkney, Somerset and Shropshire.
So what did this look like?
We worked with the BBC to deliver connectivity to the most remote spot in the UK, which you can read about here.
There was the world’s first deployment of a CUPS based packet core to support mobile edge computing in a rural environment.
Oh, and we even had QI tweeting about our 5G cow app, Me+Moo.
Our trials have caught the attention of the industry and taken a huge step forward in building the case for 5G in rural locations. That, or everyone just wanted to hang around the giant cow head – or Bessie as we like to call her – we brought to Mobile World Congress.
All of this would be cause for celebration, but we have some even more exciting news to share today.
Looking ahead to the next stage
We are pleased to announce that we have secured funding and support from DCMS, to continue doing even more great work across the three test sites . This will enable us to extend some of the existing trials, launch new ones and continue to showcase and test ground-breaking technology over the next six months.
So why do we want to extend the project?
Apart from the fact that it lets us discover even more about the beautiful Orkney Islands, there are a few other reasons why we want to continue working as a consortium to tackle some of the rural connectivity challenges.
Firstly, it gives us more time to stress-test the technology, its wider applications and the opportunity to commercialise on a wider scale. Some of our trials can only be truly tested in the summer season as well. We are exploring all the ways that we can use connectivity to enhance the experience of tourists, helping create the best trip possible.
Another example is the work we are doing with Hands Free Hectare, which involves using drones to analyse crops. Being able to test this during a summer harvest is crucial to see its potential. This is really important to us as we don’t want to just showcase technology, we want to show how it provides opportunities for new thinking when it comes to solving the rural connectivity challenge.
Secondly, the extension gives us the opportunity to launch brand new use cases that will further make the case for 5G connectivity beyond our cities. These new use cases include everything from pop-up health clinics, to showing the value of 5G to the enterprise by improving connectivity in a whisky distillery!
Finally, the extension will let us explore the benefits and demonstrate the capabilities of technology that could help deploy 5G globally. These include new demonstrations of Dynamic Spectrum Access; 5G New Radio Deployment; 5G for Enterprise Ready Core; Open Roaming and Beamforming with UHF Spectrum.