for rural and poorly-connected communities.
As the world continues to become more and more digitally connected, access to reliable connectivity is becoming increasingly important for consumers, businesses, communities, and public service providers in their everyday activities. The UK government has pursued its ambitions for improved coverage of broadband and mobile services by introducing various regulations and policies aimed at making it easier to achieve connectivity, especially in remote rural areas. Coupled with new developments in technology, these policies have laid the groundwork for communities to build their own wide-area, high-bandwidth and cost-effective next-generation networks. These networks can provide traditional broadband and mobile services for local consumers and businesses, as well as private networks for spaces like sports grounds and entertainment venues, or temporary, pop-up networks for events, such as festivals and conferences. The potential benefits to rural communities are enormous, e.g. enabling live streaming of local sports events, reaching fans across the globe and creating opportunities for interaction.
But enabling digital connectivity in rural areas is challenging. Suitable locations for mast sites are often difficult to access and it can be difficult to get equipment to them; cable runs (for optical fibre, electrical power, etc.) can be long and expensive to install. Customers are sparsely populated which makes establishing a business case more difficult. But these hurdles are surmountable. There is much that communities themselves - with the right information and expert support - can do to enable digital connectivity in their areas.
Each community is different, of course, with different connectivity requirements and different operating environments, along with different inherent skills and capabilities. You will almost certainly need to engage the services of professional consultants and service providers, but there is much that you can do yourselves!
Introducing the 5G New Thinking Rural Connectivity Toolkit
The 5G New Thinking Rural Toolkit (5GNT) is a practical guide for rural and poorly-connected communities who are considering building and operating their own next-generation communications networks. In it you will find information and guidance aimed at helping you to create your business plan, design and build your network, and then operate the network and run your business. Click on the following links for further details:
- Create Your Business Plan
You will need to identify your community's needs and the applications and use cases that the network will need to support. As well as this, you will be working out business models and the associated cost-revenue analyses and setting up the community enterprise organisation that will secure the funding and finance you will need to build and operate your network and keep the business running into the future.
- Plan and Build Your Network
Your network may include optical fibre runs, radio access networks, point-to-point microwave links, masts and electrical power facilities, all of which needs to be planned and designed. You will also need to consider coverage and capacity requirements, end-user devices, access to radio spectrum, access to mast sites and associated planning consent, network security, and more besides.
- Operate Your Network and 'Run Your Business'
Once you've got the business plan defined and the network built, the next stage is operating the network and running the business.
The Toolkit also contains Interactive Tools that you can use to explore and evaluate business models and business cases, and to help you to plan your network and obtain suitable spectrum licences.
Finally, you will be provided a Checklist to help you to coordinate and track your progress as you work through the various decisions associated with each step of designing and building your community connectivity solution.
In the Other Useful Information section, you will find Case Studies and information on various other 5G rural connectivity projects throughout the UK, as well as some notes on 5G and Public Health.
A note on finding your way around the 5GNT Toolkit
Find your way around the Toolkit by clicking on the sidebar menu symbol in the top left corner of each page. On this menu, you will find a list of all of the pages contained in the Toolkit. Click on any of these to take you to the corresponding page.
You will need to register for a free account in order to access the content. Sign up here.
Please feel free to get in touch. You can do so by clicking here or by clicking on the "Contact Us" link in the footer of the page.