Connecting Rural Locations with 5G

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The Satellite Applications Catapult has been awarded £850,000 to deliver 5G and satellite data expertise across all areas of a new 5G connectivity project in Dorset, including delivering communications trials through their 5G Step-Out Centre, and the deployment of satellite-enabled remote base stations.

The 5G RuralDorset project, with a total value of £4.335m, will implement four trials across the county aiming to demonstrate the improvement a 5G network can bring to rural locations, with a focus on reducing costs, improving coverage, and thereby allowing data users to deliver improved services.

The Catapult team will support the deployment of 5G onto existing telecommunications masts and fibre cables to demonstrate how new and existing infrastructure can be combined to deliver affordable, next generation connectivity. Alongside partners, it will also develop and test a new, low-cost network at the Catapult’s 5G Step-Out Centre which can be linked via satellite or fibre, depending on the location of the base station.

Through this enhanced connectivity, the team will coordinate the development and testing of IoT (Internet of Things) devices for coastal safety infrastructure such as life-buoys, to allow for remote monitoring of their location using satellite and terrestrial data. The Catapult will also work alongside other partners to deploy beach WiFi for general public use, which will deliver safety information to users, and via live signage on beaches and cliffs.

As well as coastal applications, the Catapult will be developing uses for the enhanced communications in other sectors. 5G will allow the Catapult to support the development of applications in agriculture and aquaculture, such as monitoring environmental impact and improving productivity in farming. In addition, the team will work alongside local healthcare organisations to improve health and social care in rural Dorset, alongside the Catapult’s current ambulance connectivity projects which use hybrid terrestrial and satellite capabilities to ensure medical professionals are seamlessly connected.

Paul Febvre, Chief Technology Officer at the Satellite Applications Catapult, said:

We are looking forward to working with Dorset Council and other project partners to improve connectivity in rural Dorset. The enhancement of current infrastructure to new wireless technology will not only allow for better mobile phone coverage but it will foster innovation across a range of other markets whilst providing improved safety features.

The project is due to begin in March 2020 and be completed by the end of March 2022. Prior to the close of the project, ownership and operation of infrastructure, data and networks are due to be transferred to a commercial organisation to secure future sustainability of the framework developed and deliver future enhancements.