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Charities and tech firms offered £30m to trial 5G in rural areas

The government wants charities, tech firms, academics and public sector organisations to link up to carry out 5G trials in countryside areas through its £30m Rural Connected Communities project.

A £30m government funding pot is being offered to charities, tech firms and other organisations, including academics, to help ensure rural communities are covered by 5G mobile technology.

The Rural Connected Communities project aims to “spark a tech revolution in countryside communities and help rural Britain seize the opportunities of 5G technology”, according to a statement from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DDCMS).

It wants “innovate trials” of 5G, which aims to offer mobile connection speeds of between 10 and 20 times faster than the 3G and 4G mobilenetworks that are currently used.

The £30m on offer is the latest wave of a £200m funding pot to roll out 5G UK wide.

The government wants to see representatives from the voluntary sector among those to team up with tech firms to carry out the work.

“In order to attract the broadest range of proposals, we are open to receiving proposals from consortia that can be led by any type of organisation from the public, private, third or academic sectors,” states guidance from the government to applicants.

Among 5G projects already underway in rural areas is an initiative in the Orkney Islands in Scotland to monitor salmon fisheries and windfarms. In Shropshire 5G is being used in farming in areas such as soil analysis with drones.

The deadline for applications is 25 October.

Planning law changes proposed

In addition, the government has launched a consultation on plans to overhaul planning law around the roll out of 5G mobile technology.

This plans to change planning laws so that the permitted height of mobile masts can be change and to allow radio equipment to be used on land without prior approval. Also the changes would allow masts to be built nearer to roads.

“The British countryside has always been a hotbed of pioneering industries and we’re making sure our rural communities aren’t left behind in the digital age,” said Digital Secretary Nicky Morgan.

“We’re investing millions so the whole country can grasp the opportunities and economic benefits of next generation 5G technology.

“In modern Britain people expect to be connected wherever they are. And so we’re committed to securing widespread mobile coverage and must make sure we have the right planning laws to give the UK the best infrastructure to stay ahead.”

Julian David, Chief Executive of tech industry organisation techUK added: “5G is an essential component of the UK’s digital fabric. It underpins innovative technologies from drones to AI (artificial intelligence).”

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