5G broadband is getting trialled in this remote UK location

A handful of triallists in Orkney will soon be able to enjoy Internet services and radio broadcasts delivered via 5G mobile connections. As part of the 5G RuralFirst programme announced earlier in the year, residents living and working in Sanday, North Ronaldsay, St Margaret's Hope and Burray will be able to test out the benefits of next generation mobile broadband technology.

A handful of locations in Orkney will soon be able to enjoy internet services and radio broadcasts delivered via 5G mobile connections.

As part of the 5G RuralFirst programme announced earlier in the year, residents living and working in Sanday, North Ronaldsay (pictured), St Margaret’s Hope and Burray will be able to test out the benefits of next generation mobile broadband technology, which promises superfast levels of bandwidth and very low latency.

The Orkney archipelago, located 10 miles north of the Scottish coast in the UK, is famous for world heritage sites, the old Royal Navy base at Scapa Flow – and being not so great for telecoms coverage.

Related: What is 5G?

Despite BT landing a sub-sea optical fibre link to the islands in 2015, reaching properties in scattered and remote locations with terrestrial connections is always challenging, especially when folks are dotted across 20 of 70 islands.

While the majority of residents can order super-fast broadband – and a lucky few can order ultra-fast services – 15 of the 23 exchanges on the archipelago aren’t able to take orders for FTTC (Fibre to the Cabinet) or FTTP (Fibre to the Premises) broadband, according to the current data on SamKnows.

In addition to reaching residents who can’t get a fixed line connection with faster broadband, the trial will also look at connecting autonomous agricultural vehicles as well as connecting a salmon farm.  On top of this, 5G services will be used to stream radio broadcasts to the island of Stronsay, where the sole exchange is not enabled for either FTTC or FTTP.

The BBC reports that the trial expects to deliver download speeds of 70Mbps and uploads of 20Mbps using the experimental technology, so similar to what you should get from a VDSL2 FTTC connection (on a good day, if you can literally see the green BT cabinet outside your window).

That’s still several orders of magnitude below what we’ve seen in previous trials of early, pre-standard 5G technology – and below what you can currently get on some 4G networks on a good day.

Spectrum earmarked for 5G rollout by UK telco regulator Ofcom includes the lower 700MHz band, the 3.4GHz, 3.6-3.8GHz and 26GHz bands. As with 4G services on the 800MHz and 2.6GHz bands, lower frequencies are better at covering larger areas as well as penetrating physical barriers, whereas signals carried on higher frequencies are more concentrated, but likely to bounce off of walls and other physical obstacles.

While it’s not known which radio frequency bands being used for the 5G RuralFirst trial, this could pave the way for residents to one day enjoy multi-gigabit download and upload speeds, if earlier trials using the 28GHz mmWave band by Samsung are anything to go by.

The 5G RuralFirst trial is due to begin by the end of the year. Networks like EE, which won parts of the 3.4GHz spectrum in the last auction, are preparing to launch commercial 5G mobile services next year, while Ofcom also plans to hold auctions for 700MHz and 3.6-3.8 GHz licenses in 2019.

Are you looking forward to 5G rollout in 2019, or is 4G ample for your needs? Let us know on Twitter @TrustedReviews.