Dorset’s £4.3 million to boost rural mobile connectivity
Today is a big day for improved mobile connectivity in rural Dorset. We’re really excited to announce that our recent 5G RuralDorset consortium’s bid to the Government’s Rural Connected Communities Competition has been successful.
We’d especially like to thank all the organisations who supported our bid including the RNLI, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and Microsoft.
The project, awarded £4.3m, will address the cost and design challenges of using common wireless infrastructure at national scale to deliver services to rural communities. This will be evaluated by three service providers – Wessex Internet, Excelerate and Vodafone and cross four different research areas that respond to the needs of those living, working and visiting rural and coastal regions of Dorset and beyond. Part of the challenge will be in using existing communication infrastructure, wherever possible, to be sensitive to our unique, UNESCO-recognised environment.
The four research areas
Agri-tech – We’ll place new wireless technology on existing masts and fibre owned and operated by internet service provider Wessex Internet allowing rapid deployment on a significant scale. The resulting connectivity will support uses in agriculture and provide access to digital services tackling rural issues including isolation and social care needs. This will show that existing and new infrastructure can be combined to deliver next generation connectivity more affordably. The test area will be remote North Dorset farmland with the exact location yet to be determined.
Lulworth Estate – here we’ll be deploying new mobile services to unlock social and commercial benefits. These will include Vodafone bringing enhanced mobile phone coverage to the area for locals and the 1 million visitors who visit each year. Additional possible uses from tourism and education to healthcare will also be considered.
Connected Coast – the UK’s coastal regions generate significant economic wealth and support a range of leisure activities that boost health and well-being. But the coast can be dangerous. There are serious challenges communicating in such regions, with the first responder community and organisations including the RNLI, Maritime and Coastguard Agency and General Lighthouse Authority having very limited access to digital communications services. Excelerate Technology will deploy a 5G services test-area in the Lulworth Cove area and a further maritime safety test-area on infrastructure along the coast. We will trial digital applications that engage with the public and improve the responsiveness of emergency services to incidents. We will evaluate the upgrade of existing infrastructure around the coast and develop the social and economic case for deployment, considering additional use cases from tourism and aquaculture to education and healthcare. The exact location of this test-area has yet to be determined.
5G Innovation Accelerator – we will provide advanced connectivity at the heart of Dorset Innovation Park, a Local Enterprise Zone and advanced-engineering centre which already supports large and small companies that develop innovative connected products and services. This will be connected to other sites in the UK and focus on wide-area connectivity solutions for rural and coastal regions. It will support businesses operating in the county and across the supply chain to test and develop products before deployment in a collaborative and secure way in this strategically important location.