Cisco will provide networking expertise for 5G RuralFirst project will create an end-to-end testbed system to test

Cisco announced it will lead a project to create a complete end-to-end rural 5G testbed system for trials of new wireless and networking technologies and services in the U.K. The government funded testbed, dubbed 5G RuralFirst, will enable some remote and rural communities to be the first to benefit from the next generation of wireless. 

Cisco, together with 32 partners, will also test spectrum sharing, as well as new applications and services. The partners will examine new business models with a focus on testing and demonstrating innovative approaches for ensuring that 5G connectivity is accessible and affordable in hard-to-reach rural areas.

5G RuralFirst will explore the benefits of 5G technology for rural communities and industries like agriculture, broadcasting and utilities. It will also look to address the barriers to, and build the business case for, investment in rural deployment.

With Cisco acting as the project lead and the University of Strathclyde, as the principal partner, the project includes startups, tech firms and academic institutions in the U.K.

Testbeds and trials for the project will primarily be based on the Orkney islands, and the farmlands of Somerset and Shropshire. The locations will be linked to the distributed Cisco 5G cloud platform at DataVita’s Tier III data centre facility near Glasgow, in Scotland.

“The project will support and inform the development of the UK’s 5G eco-system so that it is able to address the needs and aspirations of communities and businesses in rural locations in ways that 4G, 3G, and 2G have not been able to do,” Cisco said.

Some of the key use cases to be tested in the project include:

  • Broadcast radio delivered over 5G. The BBC will use the 5G testbed on Orkney to trial the capabilities of 5G to deliver traditional radio and new forms of BBC audio content over these new technologies.
  • Smart farming in partnership with Agri-EPI Center. The trial will help provide significant opportunities to transform UK agriculture through innovations in sensors and remote diagnostics, data collection, drones, precision farming techniques and autonomous vehicles.
  • IoT in Utilities and environment management: This will be addressed via network slicing and network edge data aggregation for 5G networks, alongside coverage trials and investigation.
  • Dynamic Shared Spectrum development and trial. Cisco said that this potentially disruptive work led by the University of Strathclyde and others seeks to demonstrate the applicability of dynamic and shared spectrum technologies for 5G communications in rural areas, coupled with the deployment of low cost software-defined radio technologies, both with the intention of lowering the cost of future rural 5G communications deployment and presenting the opportunity for network self-provisioning.

Earlier this month, U.K. telecom services regulator Ofcom kicked off the process to award 5G spectrum. Ofcom said the six companies approved to bid in the auction are EE (BT), O2 (Telefonica), Vodafone, Three (Hutchison 3G UK), Connexin Limited and Airspan Spectrum Holdings.  

The watchdog aims to award 150 megahertz of spectrum in the 3.4 GHz band and 40 megahertz of spectrum in the 2.3 GHz band. The regulator said part of the spectrum to be auctioned – the 2.3 GHz band – can be used by mobile carriers immediately to improve services, while the 3.4 GHz spectrum band can be used for future 5G mobile services.

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