OIC to submit funding bid for further 4/5G trials

OIC to submit funding bid for further 4/5G trials
10 October 2019

Orkney Islands Council has agreed to take part in a bid to the UK Government for another round of funding to support testing of 4/5G services in Orkney.

The Council will be part of a consortium looking to secure funding from the UK Government's Connected Communities Programme.

The Council, also as part of a consortium, successfully submitted a bid to a previous funding programme, which resulted in the 5G Rural First Trial.

This saw a number of innovate projects carried out in the county including enhanced mobile broadband in communities previously affected by poor coverage, radio broadcasts and mobile broadband over 5G in Stronsay, li-fi solar links in Graemsay, improved remote monitoring on a salmon farm and remote monitoring of water supplies at Kirkwall Grammar School. This trial ended on 30th September 2019.

The UK Government has now announced a new funding programme called Rural Connected Communities which will fund up to ten 5G research and development projects to run over the course of two years.

Successful projects will trial technical solutions to build a business case for investment in rural connectivity, exploring the capabilities of 5G to benefit rural communities.

Although project details are still to be finalised the key Council outcomes will be to provide 100% 4/5G coverage for Orkney and trial new commercial models for delivery of 4/5G services.

Councillors agreed to the funding bid at a meeting of the Full Council on Tuesday. The report heard at committee is available here  and the audiocast of the meeting available here.

The project would be cost neutral for the Council at this stage.

The closing date for the bid is October 25 with successful projects due to be notified in December.

Councillor Kevin Woodbridge, who represents Orkney’s North Isles said: “Our Council Plan was developed based on the key issues being raised by voters in the run up to the 2017 local elections – and in the plan we say that we want Orkney’s communities to enjoy the best national standards of digital connectivity. We know this is a key issue for our island communities and this could be transformational economically and socially, particularly for those in the most remote and rural areas of Orkney.

“This latest round of funding will take the recent trial projects, which have shown enormous potential for enhancing life and work in Orkney, to the next stage. This is a competitive funding process, other rural locations will be bidding in and its vital that the Council and its partners work hard to be at the front of the queue for the funding.”

Advice on 5G safety was obtained by the Council from Public Health England (PHE) before agreeing to previous project elements, like the radio broadcasts in Stronsay.  PHE is the national body that takes the lead on public health matters involving radio frequency electromagnetic fields, or radio waves, used in telecommunications. This guidance also adheres to international health standards based on research conducted by the ICNIRP - the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection, an independent organisation which is formally recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Projects included in the 5G Rural First Trial were:

  • Enhanced Mobile Broadband - tested different technologies to deliver connectivity to several communities where nothing, or only very poor landline coverage, exists today. Small clusters in Burray, North Ronaldsay and Sanday have been established.
  • Radio broadcast over 5G - testing the potential of 5G to broadcast nationwide in a more efficient manner. The BBC will only turn off terrestrial TV when alternatives can cover 99% of the population, so diverting their broadcast costs to 5G Mobile Network Operators could be a valuable contributor to the 5G rural business case. The BBC has undertaken a trial on Stronsay involving residents to trial 20 5G handsets to deliver radio services and Wi-Fi.
  • Low Cost Disaggregated/Virtualised Small Cell- testing lower cost solutions for connectivity, which could help to improve the economics of rural coverage. BT has trialled high speed broadband clusters in four to five locations.
  • LiFi Solar 'Last Mile' links - testing the viability of Light Fidelity (LiFi) in rural environments, by connecting two rural properties using solar panels as receivers. A brand-new technology, first to be tested in the field , this project has been led by the University of Edinburgh in partnership with a commercial offshoot PureLiFi. The trial has taken place in Graemsay involving residents from four properties.
  • Legionella Monitoring - Internet of Things (IoT) enabled remote monitoring of water in a school providing a more cost-effective solution for health and safety compliance. The Council has had temperature sensors installed at Kirkwall Grammar School to enable remote sensing of water temperatures throughout the building.
  • Salmon Fishing - farmed salmon is the UK's second largest food export and therefore a major contributor to the national economy. Measuring parameters (pH/dissolved oxygen/salinity/temperature) inside and outside the salmon cages is vital as exceeded parameters can pose a serious risk of death to the fish stocks. Despite this being a technology heavy industry, deployment today is seriously constrained by limited connectivity. Toyness salmon farm (near Houton) has participated in the trial.
  • Connected Wind Farm -  Internet of Things (IoT) sensors have enabled high value equipment integrity monitoring as well as weather/wind speed monitoring. Installing this technology has helped identify potentially dangerous weather conditions, and enabled appropriate action to be taken, minimising impact. This could reduce insurance premiums, helping to improve the efficiency of wind farms. Hammars Hill has taken part in this trial.

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