5G will soon be coming to the remote Scottish archipelago of the Orkney Islands.
As part of the consortium awarded the 5G RuralFirst contract in March 2018, telecoms giant Cisco is bound by a commitment to ‘look beyond the city’ with its forthcoming 5G test initiatives.
Now the Cisco-led consortium has revealed the first solid details of its rural 5G test plans. It’s currently in the process of identifying specific Orkney residents and businesses to help test various 5G solutions.
A major part of these Orkney 5G trials will revolve around the use case of ‘enhanced mobile broadband’ - that is, using 5G mobile network technology to stand in for traditional landline-depended broadband. 5G RuralFirst will be focusing on the 700MHz 5G band in these tests, and will target several communities where there is currently very poor or even no landline coverage.
5G RuralFirst expects to be able to offer speeds of up to 70 Mbps download and 20 Mbps upload in these so-called ‘not spot’ areas, which would be competitive with high-end wired broadband speeds available in major UK cities.
Related: What is Fixed Wireless Broadband?
Broadcast over 5G
The other use case 5G RuralFirst intends to test is ‘broadcast over 5G’. This involves utilising 5G network technology to transmit radio and TV services instead of the usual satellite or cable methods.
Analysts and broadcasters such as the BBC have identified 5G network technology as a potential broadcasting medium. However, it will require near ubiquitous 5G coverage before this becomes viable.
5G RuralFirst claims that it will be testing a variety of technological approaches as part of these tests. In a separate whitepaper, it outlined a method of accessing unused or wasted spectrum as a cost-effective way to connect sparsely populated rural areas.
Goldman Sachs recently pointed out that if anything, 5G should be easier to set up in rural areas than in built-up cities. This is because the higher frequencies utilised by 5G networks are easily disrupted by buildings.
It’s hoped that the 5G RuralFirst Orkney trials will commence before the end of 2018 - harsh Orkney winter permitting. They are then expected to run until March 2019.