Broadband rollout plan unveiled for Orkney

The plans for the £4.3 million investment granted earlier this year to the 5G “RuralFirst” project have been revealed.

Led by Cisco and the University of Strathclyde, the funding will be used to bridge the broadband slow-spots in remote parts of the Orkney islands in Scotland, with plans to trial a number of technologies to determine which would be most appropriate for the region.

It is anticipated that superfast broadband download speeds of up to 70Mbps will be achieved.

Trials are also expected to be conducted in Shropshire and Somerset, and will extend to the use of autonomous agricultural vehicles. Improving productivity for a salmon farm and a wind farm are also on the cards for Cisco with the rollout.

The original announcement stated: “[This] project will integrate spectrum sharing strategies for 5G; bringing connectivity to rural communities, enabling smart farming in partnership with Agri-Epi Centre (including drones, autonomous farm vehicles and remote veterinary inspections); innovative methods of delivering broadcast radio over 5G working with the BBC, alongside the delivery of 5G connectivity for IoT in utility and other industries in rural areas.”

The existing Digital Scotland programme with Openreach (BT) has extended the fixed line superfast broadband on the island using Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) technology to 75 per cent of homes and businesses.

The trials are expected to commence before the end of 2018 with plans to also test broadband radio over 5G in Stronsay.

It appears 5G has been identified by analysts as a platform for broadband content, although current broadcasters appear reluctant to sign up until coverage is proven to be comprehensive. As a result, network providers are also not yet completely committed to the technology.

The spectrum bands to be used have not yet been detailed and it is unknown as to the physical set up of the networks. Cisco has also cautioned that delays with the rollout may be experienced due to the winter season.