Coastal connections and agricultural airwaves are likely to be better with a 5G RuralDorset mobile initiative.

The Dorset project is one of seven across the UK to be funded by the Government’s Rural Connected Communities competition over the next two years.

The total cost of the Dorset scheme, announced today, is £6.675m with Dorset Council contributing £150,000. The rest will come from industry and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

A bid led by Dorset Council will work on how rural communities could benefit from next generation mobile connectivity.

Plans include better connections along sections of the coastline; using ‘smart’ technology on farms to control equipment and to monitor crops and livestock and using a 5G hub at the Dorset Innovation Park at Winfrith.

Said deputy leader of Dorset Council Peter Wharf: “We are delighted to receive this funding. Improved connectivity is critical to our smart rural place aspirations and making Dorset a great place to live, work and visit.

“Introduced sensitively in our world-famous UNESCO-recognised coastline and the wider environment, 5G can help keep vulnerable people safe and well, deliver economic growth, and provide enhanced educational and social opportunities.

“This exciting project won’t banish all the county’s mobile phone not-spots but is an opportunity for Dorset to become a leader in Europe in understanding how next generation connectivity can positively transform the lives and economies of rural communities. We look forward to sharing our learning experiences with other parts of the UK.”

A consortium of council, local, national and international partners plan to show that mobile infrastructure can be delivered cost effectively and sensitively to benefit rural businesses and communities when the project gets underway this March.

Four trials in the county will look at innovative public, social and business uses of improved mobile coverage. They will test whether this connectivity can be delivered cheaper and quicker using existing masts, buildings and fibre wherever possible to minimise visual and other impacts on communities.

The four trial areas are –

*Agri-tech – new wireless technology on existing masts and fibre owned and operated by internet service provider Wessex Internet to allow innovative agricultural uses. These may include ‘smart’ farm controls, crop and livestock monitoring and using drones to spray more precisely and minimise chemical run-off into local water courses.

*Lulworth Estate – new mobile services to unlock social and commercial benefits. These will include Vodafone bringing enhanced mobile phone coverage to the area for locals and the 1 million visitors who visit each year. Additional possible uses from tourism and education to healthcare will be considered.

*Connected coast – improved safety along a section of the coast by upgrading access to digital communications for first responders and supporting organisations.

*5G Innovation hub – at Dorset Innovation Park, Winfrith. This Local Enterprise Zone and advanced-engineering centre already supports large and small companies that develop innovative connected products and services. New connectivity will support businesses operating in the county and across the supply chain to test and develop products in a collaborative and secure way.

The 5G RuralDorset consortium includes Dorset Council, Vodafone, Wessex Internet, Excelerate Technology Ltd, Bournemouth University, Kimcell, Hugslock, Telint, Neutral Networks, University of Strathclyde, New Generation Internet Services and Satellite Applications Catapult.

The 5G RuralDorset consortium has supporting partners including the RNLI, Maritime & Coastguard Agency and Microsoft.

Seizing the potential of modern technology

The project received a total of £4.335m today by the government.

Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden said: "With £4.3 million of UK Government funding, 5G Rural Dorset will help people keep safe, boost the economy and provide opportunities in the area.

"We are committed to ensuring the south of England isn't left behind, and the project will ensure our rural communities receive 5G connectivity."

The Dorset project is among a series of government-funded trials to help rural areas seize the potential of modern technology.

These new trials will help spread the benefits of technology across the country and allow the UK to grasp an early advantage by using the new applications 5G networks can enable.

It forms part of a £200 million investment in testbeds and trials to explore new ways that 5G can boost business growth and productivity, improve the lives of people in rural areas and maximise the productivity benefits of new technologies.