New 5G trials to take place in rural areas

A new competition has been launched to test groundbreaking 5G applications in rural areas
A new competition has been launched to test groundbreaking 5G applications in rural areas

A new competition has been launched to roll out 5G across the countryside in a bid to boost farmers' businesses and the rural economy.

The £30m UK-wide competition announced by Digital Secretary Nicky Morgan seeks to spark a tech revolution in countryside communities.

Up to ten rural locations will be chosen to run innovative trials of 5G applications.

They will stimulate commercial investment in 5G technology which offers mobile speeds 10 to 20 times faster than previous generations.

The Rural Connected Communities competition is the latest wave of £200 million funding to pioneer 5G testbeds across the country.

The technology is already being used in the Orkney Islands to remotely monitor salmon fisheries and improve efficiency of wind farms.

It is also being used in Shropshire to show how farming can be transformed through targeted crop-spraying and soil analysis with drones and tractors.

The new funding will build on projects like these and trial other uses of 5G in rural communities to help drive business growth, enhance lives and encourage innovation.

Mark Bridgeman, Deputy President of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), said that the the current situation, where only 67% of the country can access a decent signal, is 'unacceptable'.

“The vast potential of the rural economy will only be fulfilled when everyone in the countryside has full mobile connectivity, and we welcome DCMS’s intent to deliver the Prime Minister’s promise of internet access for all.

“Government is right to focus on planning reform as a means to removing current barriers but there must also be a balance between the interests of landowners and mobile operators.”

New consultation to improve coverage

The government has also launched a consultation on proposals to simplify planning rules to improve rural mobile coverage.

Reforming planning laws for mobile infrastructure is part government plans to level-up connectivity for communities and further support the roll-out of 5G.

These include changing the permitted height of new masts to deliver better mobile coverage, promote mast sharing and minimise the need to build more infrastructure.

It also seeks to allow existing ground-based masts to be strengthened without prior approval to enable sites to be upgraded for 5G and for mast sharing.

The consultation is seeking views on what measures industry could offer to mitigate the impact of any new infrastructure, including assurances of a greater use of existing sites and the removal of redundant masts.