The UK government is looking for tech firms, charities, academic and public sector organisations to carry out 5G trials in the British countryside, through the £30m Rural Connected Communities project; a trial that seeks to close the UK’s digital divide.
The Rural Connected Communities (RCC) competition will fund up to 10 5G research and development projects to run over the course of two years. The project aims to “spark a tech revolution in countryside communities and help rural Britain seize the opportunities of 5G technology”, according to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
These projects will trial innovative use cases and technical solutions to build the business case for investment in rural connectivity and explore the capabilities of 5G to benefit rural communities. They will also help demonstrate demand from a variety of economic sectors and rural communities for 5G technologies.
Connectivity applications are expected to show a combination of societal and economic benefits that will together create a stronger case for investing in the deployment of 5G infrastructure for rural areas.
The digital and culture secretary, Nicky Morgan, said: “In modern Britain people expect to be connected wherever they are. And so we’re committed to securing widespread mobile coverage and must make sure we have the right planning laws to give the UK the best infrastructure to stay ahead.”
Julian David, the chief executive of trade association techUK, added: “As important as the financial support for innovative uses for 5G is, the recognition that the way planning rules are implemented is a big factor in the level of connectivity. I am pleased the Government is now proposing to simplify those rules as they apply to mobile masts in England and urges them to move swiftly to make these changes.”
Some of the 5G projects already underway is an initiative in the Orkney Islands in Scotland to monitor salmon fisheries and windfarms. In Shropshire 5G is being used in farming in areas such as soil analysis with drones.
The deadline for applications to the Rural Connected Communities competition is 25 October and the winning projects will be announced before the end of the year.