Agricultural Drone

Government launches 5G for rural areas competition

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Chloé Vaughan

The innovative use of 5G for targeted crop spraying and soil analysis with drones and tractors, has inspired the Government to launch a £30m Rural Connected Communities competition to help further the deployment of next generation telecoms into Britain’s countryside.

5G helps fishermen in the Orkney islands to remotely monitor salmon, and allows dairy farmers in Somerset to receive daily updates on the health of the herd with an app called ‘me+moo’. The possibilities for the utilisation of 5G in the agricultural property sector, which is typically found in more rural areas of the UK, are boundless, and is set to revolutionise the farming industry.

Me+moo

Me+moo was launched by 5GRuralFirst earlier this year in collaboration with Cisco. Cows are fitted with IoT collars and leg sensors to track health based on feeding, sleeping, milking, and resting habits, click to enlarge

The competition aims to fund further projects like these and trial 5G in other rural communities to help grow businesses, encourage innovation and enhance connectivity.

Ten locations will be chosen to run the 5G trials over the course of two years. It’s hoped this competition will also stimulate commercial investment in the service.

Applications are expected to show combined societal and economic benefits to create a strong case for investing in the deployment of 5G infrastructure in rural areas. The RCC is not designed as a network roll out programme, but a series of trials to inform future network rollouts.

The RCC is open to applications from a mixture of organisations, including the public, private and third sectors, and academia.

5G Salmon Data

The 5G salmon data monitor in the Orkney Islands checks temperature, salinity, and oxygen levels in the Salmon enclosures, and automatically triggers the feeding system, click to enlarge

Nicky Morgan, secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, launched the £30m competition to help with the roll out: “The British countryside has always been a hotbed of pioneering industries and we’re making sure our rural communities aren’t left behind in the digital age. We’re investing millions so the whole country can grasp the opportunities and economic benefits of next generation 5G technology.

“In modern Britain people expect to be connected wherever they are. 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.”

The RCC is funded from £200m of investment allocated to the 5G Testbeds and Trials Programme from the National Productivity Investment Fund.

The competition opened on 27 August and will close on 25 October.

The opening of the competition coincided with the launch of the Government’s consultation on ‘proposed reforms to permitted development rights to support the deployment of 5G and extend mobile coverage’.

The consultation, which closes on 5 November, is seeking views on amendments to permitted development rights for operators in order to support the deployment of 5G to extend mobile coverage. This includes:

  • Changing the current permitted height of masts in order to deliver better mobile coverage, promote mast sharing and minimise the need to build more infrastructure
  • Allowing existing masts to be strengthened without prior approval to allow for mast sharing
  • Allowing masts to be built closer to roads
  • Deploying radio equipment onto protected and unprotected land, excluding sites of special scientific interest, without prior approval

Esther McVey, minister of state for housing and planning, said: “We’re committed to delivering the homes people across the country need, and that includes delivering the right infrastructure such as broadband connectivity and good mobile coverage. There is nothing more frustrating that moving into your new home to find signal is poor.

“That’s why we are proposing to simplify planning rules for installing the latest mobile technology, helping to extend coverage and banish more of those signal black spots particularly for those living in rural areas.”

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