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Government to Unveil £40m for UK Rural 5G Broadband Pilots

Monday, February 10th, 2020 (7:31 am) - Score 4,169
5g mobile signal bars uk

The UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, is today reportedly gearing up to announce a fresh round of new capital investment in major infrastructure projects (HS2 etc.), which is expected to include a pot of £40 million to support pilots of superfast 5G based wireless (mobile) broadband in rural areas.

At this point readers may recall that the Prime Minister has already committed to invest £5bn in order to have “Gigabit broadband sprouting in every home” by the end of 2025 (here). The funding is to be targeted exclusively at the final 20% of hardest to reach premises (i.e. mostly rural areas and possibly some disadvantaged urban locations).

The adoption of “gigabit” terminology has also enabled the Government to water down their original focus on “full fibre” by including other “gigabit-capable” technologies (here), such as Virgin Media’s predominantly hybrid fibre coax network and ultrafast 5G mobile services have also been mentioned as examples.

On top of that we shouldn’t forget about the Government’s original 5G Testbeds and Trials Programme in 2018, which also included some rural broadband projects. On the other hand that programme confusingly included some fixed wireless deployments that weren’t actually using 5G New Radio technology at all, despite adopting the terminology and some similar radio bands.

The big challenge with using 5G in any rural setting is the fact that in a normal mobile environment the operators’ tend to focus on lower frequency mobile bands (e.g. 700MHz, 800MHZ, 900MHz, 1800MHz and 2100MHz) in order to achieve the widest possible coverage at the lowest cost (rural communities are small and sparse over a wide geographic area).

NOTE: At present only the 700MHz band above seems to be targeted for 5G, but in the future some of the other lower frequency bands may be re-purposed for use by 5G and combined via Carrier Aggregation (CA) for better performance.

Sadly such bands don’t provide operators with much frequency spectrum in order to deliver their data, which makes achieving Gigabit speeds rather difficult. By comparison the higher frequency 5G bands, such as from 3.4GHz and upwards, provide a lot more spectrum to deliver data but their signals don’t travel as far and will struggle to penetrate indoors in any meaningful way.

Due to the above we suspect that the new pilots will most likely focus on targeted Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) style solutions, which – much like under the previous programme – may or may not actually involve real 5G New Radio tech. In these setups it’s not uncommon to mix targetted “Full Fibre” or Microwave capacity links with local Line-of-Sight (LoS) wireless links that connect directly to receiving antennas installed outside of a home.

We’ll update this article once the official announcement has been made, although reports seem to be mixed on whether that will be today or tomorrow.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
Leave a Comment
17 Responses
  1. Ray Woodward says:

    Yeah right ! 😉

  2. JmJohnson says:

    Get ready for the disputes… neighbours asking to cut down each others trees due to their internet dropping every time the wind blows.

  3. where have Cosmos' study findings disappeared to? says:

    How do people opt out of being in the line of sight range? Not everyone owns wireless devices and owns a computer connected via ethernet and wired telephone. People are moving to rural areas to escape this ever-increasing wireless smog. How do they opt out?

    1. joe says:

      LOL you can’t op out of it anymore than you can opt out of sunlight or rainfall.

    2. Gary says:

      You could move to Greenbank Virginia, failing that invest in a tinfoil hat.

    3. eQuiLIBERTY says:

      Currently insufficiently developed legal rights and protections in this area, but good people from different disciplines are working hard to correct this unsustainable situation.

      Tonia Antoniazzi MP and colleagues raised the prospect of creating ‘white zones’ (like Green Bank) in an EMF health debate in Parliament last year. Details available online.

    4. Roger_Gooner says:

      YOu cannot opt out, so you’d be exposed to the increased risk of more damaging signals on top of what you already get from TV stations, radio stations and satellites. :‑)

    5. The EMF is out to get us says:

      I can see new villages ringed in Faraday cages popping up everywhere, lhh.

  4. Gary says:

    5G just isnt the tech for the much talked about final % hardest to reach properties. Unless we’re going to install links to hop between individual properties it just doesnt have the range to be a realistic proposition.

    A 5G tower in very small hamlets and clusters of properties maybe, But not for the dispersed rural homes.

  5. Lenny says:

    I’d think rural areas would be happy enough to just get above 20 mbs of 4g let alone 5g.
    I’m over 2 miles away from a tower and have 2 types of external signal boosters wired on tbar connectors. And I get between 20 and 60 mbps which is fine for streaming in HD and all the WiFi requirements I have.

    1. Gary says:

      Nd there’s the problem with defining rural, I’m in a rural area but also out of town and in a sparsely populated location, I am indeed happy now that with 4G I have gone from 1.5 to approximately 45.

      However there are many towns and villages of a fair size that are concsidered rural, and i doubt they would be happy with a 20M 4G solution.

      SGov classify 98% of Scotland as rural, thats why all these statements regarding only the rural areas etc etc irritate me, Population wise only accounting for 17% of the population, but the Terminoligy makes it (deliberately in my opinion) sound like a much smaller problem.

      If anyone fancies take a look at the Thinkbroadband map for example round the Peterhead,Aberdeen, Keith triangle.(link below zoom out a little with VDSL/fttp selected)


      Please understand I dont expect full geographic coverage anytime soon nor possibly ever for good reason, What does annoy me is the false expectations these kind of government soundbite statements produce in those less aware of the reality.

  6. Meadmodj says:

    Is this really new money?. Looks suspiciously like the £41m already promised for initiatives such as 5G RuralFirst etc.

  7. Mark says:

    It’s a weapon against people! It has to be https://youtu.be/zvQ3Eb2j2jw

  8. James Body says:

    Details about the £30 million funding for the DCMS 5G Rural Connected Communities Project Canberra found at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/applying-for-the-5g-rural-connected-communities-project

    This is new funding, not directly linked with the 5G Testbed Project funding announced 2 years ago at Mobile World Congress.

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      I agree, it could well be part of the RCC project, although that is ultimately also part of the £200m that was allocated to the 5G Testbeds and Trials Programme.

  9. James Body says:

    Also – I am puzzled why everyone focusses on 5G New Radio whenever 5G is discussed.

    For me, the key technology for Rural 5G deployments is Network Slicing – this is key for allowing multiple ‘slice owners’ to share a single physical radio access network whilst maintains full control of the Quality of Service and other network parameters. This enables multiple revenue streams to be generated by the Reverse MVNO Operator (offering multi operator neutral host) services to any user equipments outside of their own home network coverage.

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      Perhaps because by itself Network Slicing is not specifically “5G” as it’s been around for longer than that, although 5G does incorporate it. We shouldn’t be putting 5G labels on every associated wireless technology, otherwise it becomes like calling ‘Vectoring’ in a fixed line network a G.fast technology, even though it can and has been used with VDSL2. Specific standards existing to define what 5G is and must incorporate (via 3GPP / ITU etc.).

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