University of Strathclyde to help lead ‘unique’ rural 5G network project

THE University of Strathclyde has been announced as the principal partner of a ‘unique’ project to empower rural and poorly connected communities to build their own commercially viable and sustainable 5G wireless network.

Led by technology firm Cisco, the initiative is in partnership with the UK Government’s department of digital, culture, media and sport (DCMS).

With community and civic partners in the Orkney Islands, Borderlands and Northern Ireland, the university said the project brings together diverse partners to develop the tools, processes and business models that mean rural and poorly connected communities can ‘rapidly’ establish next generation and 5G connectivity for local benefit.

The university added that only 66% of UK landmass is being served by all four UK mobile network operations and there are still 610,000 homes and businesses that don’t receive adequate broadband service.

In 2019, Ofcom changed its policy on spectrum sharing to develop a more open and accessible market. As a result, investment in 5G now looks to also target rural connectivity across the UK to close the rural digital divide.

David Meads, chief executive of Cisco UK & Ireland, commented, “We believe that by taking advantage of neutral hosting technologies, fixed wireless access and spectrum sharing, we will be able to allow third parties – including local businesses and communities – to build and own radio infrastructure, as well as work with MNOs to reduce costs and make rural coverage commercially sustainable.”

UK Government minister for digital infrastructure, Matt Warman, added, “We are making sure the UK’s rural communities aren’t left behind in the digital age and are investing record amounts to improve connectivity in the least connected parts of the country.

“5G New Thinking is part of our £30 million programme to help the countryside capitalise on new ways of using next generation 5G technology and I look forward to seeing how rural communities will benefit.”

The university said that the project is expected to commence later in 2020 and be concluded in 2022.