Oliver Dowden, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, said: “Connecting the ancient Sherwood Forest with next-generation 5G technology will help bring its story and legendary characters to life through virtual reality, with huge knock-on benefits for Nottinghamshire’s visitor economy.”
In this sentence, he captured the two key objectives at the heart of Nottinghamshire’s 5G Connected Forest project: how a scalable 5G ecosystem might be created to support a range of tourism and environmental management use cases in rural forested and natural heritage areas; and how 5G and associated technologies could be used to unlock the potential of the people and businesses of Nottinghamshire.
This focus on the potential of 5G as an enabler for business development and growth is reflected in the fact that half the 5G connected Forest project’s partners are end-user organisations. They have little or no prior experience of 5G, or indeed technology in general, but share a common interest in exploring ways to use the technology to help build their businesses and improve consumer experience..
Based on five sites close to Sherwood Forest, the network is designed to support interactive data streams. It must cope with demand for high bandwidth from multiple devices in a small area, such as a cluster of people all using a virtual reality experience at the same time. This combination of traffic density and low latency demands 5G.
STEFAN STANISLAWSKI, UK Head of Netmore Group, the project’s network operator, explains: “For the main use case of virtual/augmented reality, we will be using the latest headsets connected to 5G, most likely using a dongle or Mi-Fi style of device that supports 5G. We’re collaborating with a number of other Rural Connected Communities projects to source suitable devices and ensure that each project is aware of the latest information about suppliers in this new n77 frequency band.
“The main project sites will be interconnected with dark fibre, and later sites will be interconnected to the core. One of the challenges of being on the leading edge of technological developments is that things keep changing. While this is our current thinking, it is quite possible that things will change for the later sites, depending on equipment availability and compatibility.
Dark fibre is ideal, of course, but can be expensive over longer distances, which is why we are only providing this for the central cluster. For the networking aspect of the project, we expect to have the first sites live with non-stand alone 1800/3800 by the end of January.”
Like the rest of the world, restrictions were placed on working and movement due to Covid-19. A lack of site access stalled early preparation work.
However, now, in the autumn, work is gearing back up; partners are able to restart recruitment, local schools and colleges are already looking at ways to join the project, and the network designs are in place.
The partners have also been discussing the potential use of 5G for “Smart Homes” with a manufacturer of highly energy-efficient homes on a new housing development next to Sherwood Forest.
Despite the setbacks, the 5G Connected Forest project has already inspired the further adoption of 5G in the county.
In October, Nottinghamshire County Council and D2N2, the area’s Local Enterprise Partnership, announced the first deployment of 5G in a local business centre and the creation of a new Digital Innovation Centre in Worksop in North Nottinghamshire. This extra initiative to showcase the county’s 5G using augmented reality and virtual reality capabilities will be delivered by current 5G Connected Forest partners Netmore, Gooii and consultancy company ISPB, putting Nottinghamshire at the forefront of 5G innovation
How to subscribe to the Innovation Briefing
- I'm a UK5G member: Great. Simply edit your member profile and update your marketing preferences by ticking the relevant checkbox and add your postal address.
- I'm not a UK5G member: If you'd like a physical copy of the magazine, you'll need to register as a member on UK5G and update your marketing preferences accordingly.