Advanced Television

BBC extends Orkney 5G broadcast trial

May 15, 2019

By Colin Mann

The BBC’s 5G broadcast radio trial in Stronsay, Orkney, has been extended until the end of September 2019. The trial began in February with residents in Stronsay becoming some of the first people in the world to receive live radio broadcasts over 5G mobile networks.

The trial has proven extremely popular with participants, with initial independent research finding that 90 per cent were satisfied with the mobile internet service, 100 per cent were satisfied with the range of stations provided by the radio signal, and more than 50 per cent were satisfied with the quality of reception. Participants also praised the flexibility and portability of the trial service, its ease of use, how it has helped them keep up to date and feel more connected, and were pleased to have their rural community chosen for the trial.

Extending the trial allows the participants to continue enjoying the benefits of mobile Internet and live BBC radio broadcasts for longer. It also allows the BBC and its partners to further optimise the technical parameters of the radio signal and to collect more technical data to help understand live 5G broadcasting in greater detail.

“We’ve had an overwhelmingly positive response from those taking part in our 5G broadcast trial, and how much they value being part of it, so we’re delighted to be able to extend it until later this year,” commented Kieran Clifton, Director of Distribution and Business Development, BBC.

“It’s also been a success from an engineering perspective, with high levels of quality and consistency in the experimental service. The extension gives our experts a chance to continue to improve on their work so far, and get even more insight into live 5G mobile broadcasting, how it could be deployed, and how it could help audiences in rural areas.”

For the past year, the BBC has been part of the 5G RuralFirst consortium, an initiative led by Cisco which is supported by UK Government funding. It aims to demonstrate the potential of increased connectivity, and new approaches to deploy connectivity, in rural areas as they can often suffer from poor coverage and low bandwidth on both fixed and mobile networks. The project explores a range of possible use cases, from farming to fishing and many other important applications. The BBC has been leading the work to trial broadcasting over 5G as a potential new way of delivering its radio services, especially in rural areas.

Working with the Orkney Islands Council, the island of Stronsay, Orkney, was identified as an ideal location for the 5G Broadcast radio trial, in part because of its limited existing fixed and mobile broadband connectivity and poor digital radio coverage. The trial was launched on February 22nd 2019, delivering 13 BBC radio stations through a modified version of the BBC Sounds app, including BBC Radio Orkney, as well as mobile broadband access.

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