Over 500,000 access attempts have been made to the University of Strathclyde’s mobile network in Orkney. The network, which is supported by CloudNet IT Solutions Ltd, has been live less than a month. It currently has two base station sites at Keelylang Hill and Hatston Pier, and supports the provision of Wi-Fi on busses as part of the sustainable tourism use case of 5G RuralFirst. It is planned to extend the network westwards as part of Phase 2 of the project.
While the network is not public, modern 4G phones will see its transmissions and will try to connect if the network they subscribe to is unavailable. The access attempts therefore represent times when users are not able to make calls, send texts, or access data services on their own network.
As of this milestone, the access attempts have come from 6,979 different mobiles, 6,205 from the UK, and the remainder from 46 other countries. While there is a huge spike in activity when a cruise ship arrives, the number of UK users represents over a quarter of the entire 22,000 population of the islands. While much of the focus of 5G has been on new use cases and novel applications, what these figures show is the huge demand for existing services in rural areas which are not being served due to coverage limitations. The technology being developed in 5G RuralFirst, allowing cheaper provision of high quality coverage, will go a long way to address this problem.
You can listen to Strathclyde researcher Greig Paul discussing this milestone with BBC Radio Orkney. Fast forward to 7min 41 seconds.