The Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport has announced that rural areas such as Sherwood Forest will host research projects relating to next generation 5G technology.
The Rural Connected Communities competition welcomed entries from across the UK, calling for projects making use of 5G. The nine winners of the competition will receive a share of the £35m in government funding dedicated to finding new ways for all areas of the UK to take up 5G and other technologies.
The winners include an air and sea search and rescue services trial in Dorset, a project based in Nottinghamshire’s Sherwood Forest, and other trials in Yorkshire, Gwent, Monmouthshire, Orkney, Wiltshire, Shropshire, and Worcestershire. The government says that there are plans to expand into Northern Ireland.
The Sherwood Forest-based project will involve retelling the legend of Robin Hood in a 3D VR experience: one element of the creation of a world-first ‘5G Connected Forest’. The project will also involve the testing of semi-autonomous visitor transport vehicles and testing of drones and other robots to survey the forest.
“It will be situated in the ancient royal forest of Sherwood, which has been wooded since the end of the last Glacial Period,” said Kay Cutts, leader of Nottingham County Council. “There is no better opportunity to trial 5G in a forest setting anywhere else in the UK – not just for the area’s geography, but for its rich and fascinating history.”
The CoCore project in South East Wales, which is being awarded £5m in funding, will connect communities across Monmouthshire and Blaenau Gwent, hopefully providing opportunities in farming security and “immersive tourism”.
Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden commented: “We’re determined to make the UK a world leader in 5G and deliver on our promise to improve connections for people and businesses across the country. Today we’re announcing new funding to seize the new opportunities this technology will offer us.”
“This includes seeing how it could create new jobs in the countryside, make businesses more productive and unleash even more ideas in our cutting-edge creative industries.”
The government also announced the launch of a £30m open competition ‘5G Create’, which calls for new opportunities to use 5G in film, TV, video games, logistics, and tourism, such as supporting the expansion of esports in the UK. According to a government statement, these trials will “allow the UK to grasp an early advantage by using the new applications 5G networks can enable”.
The government qualified that no equipment from “high-risk” vendors would play a role in the winning projects, allaying concerns about China’s divisive telecommunications giant Huawei Technologies. Huawei was recently given the green light to provide a limited amount of equipment for non-core parts of the UK’s 5G network, provoking fury from the Trump administration in the United States.
The competition will open in March and close at the end of June.