BBC 5G trial to extend rural coverage
February 22, 2019
By Colin Mann
The BBC is to pioneer live radio broadcasts over 5G mobile networks in the first public trial of its kind. The trial in Stronsay, Orkney, could help the BBC reach more people in rural areas in future. The trial will run for an initial six weeks with potential to extend. It is part of the wider 5G RuralFirst initiative, where several other trials will also explore the potential of 5G for rural businesses and communities across the country.
Using a modified version of the new BBC Sounds app and a broadcast-ready smartphone, those taking part in the BBC trial will be among the first to receive live radio broadcasts over 5G – the next step up from 4G mobile networks we use today. The trial will put live radio into their pockets and onto their smartphones for the first time, as well as all the on-demand programmes, podcasts and music mixes BBC Sounds has to offer.
The BBC believes that using the Internet to deliver programmes and services will become increasingly important in the future, and wants to explore the benefits 5G broadcasting could offer. It works by sending a single version of a programme out over a wide area, which anybody in range can receive. This differs from live-streaming, where the same programme is sent individually to every person that requests it.
For audiences in rural areas, where bandwidth is often low and unstable, this means enjoying live programmes more reliably on-the-go. And when lots of people want the same live programme at the same time, broadcasting it over 5G can help reduce congestion on the rest of the network. Not only does this free up precious bandwidth and improve the reliability of the Internet, but the 5G broadcast won’t eat into people’s data allowances either.
“The Internet has changed how people watch and listen to programmes, and we want to bring those benefits to all of our audiences,” commented Kieran Clifton, Director of Distribution and Business Development, BBC. “This can be challenging in rural areas, so we’re pioneering new ways of reaching people using the latest technology. This cutting-edge trial is a chance for us to learn all we can, so we can continue to provide world-class public service broadcasting to the entire UK.”
“5G RuralFirst aims to identify practical use cases of how enhanced connectivity will benefit businesses and communities in rural areas across the country,” explained Nick Chrissos, Director of Innovation, Europe, Cisco. “It’s about building a business case for 5G roll outs beyond urban areas and demonstrating the value of investing in the digital infrastructure serving rural businesses and communities for the benefit of the entire country.”
A 4G/5G network and associated technology has been installed on Stronsay especially for the trial. The local wireless ISP, Cloudnet, is hoping to take over aspects of the technology at the end of the trial with the aim of providing wireless home broadband services to the island.
5G RuralFirst aims to successfully demonstrate several 5G use-cases across testbeds in Orkney, Shropshire and Somerset, to create the business case for rural areas being better served by connectivity infrastructure to help bridge the digital divide.