UK in limited smart lamppost, OneWeb broadband trials

UK in limited smart lamppost, OneWeb broadband trials

Business news |
By Nick Flaherty

The UK government has announced small trials of smart lampposts and broadband Internet for remote islands.

Residents in Papa Stour in the Shetland Islands, one of the UK’s most remote and inaccessible communities will be connected to high-speed broadband via the OneWeb satellite constellation where the UK government has a golden share.

The Smart Infrastructure Pilots Programme (SIPP) will provide smart multi-purpose columns or lamp posts are street furniture that have the capacity to deliver a range of smart services, including improved mobile network connectivity, public WiFi, electric vehicle charging, public safety and environmental monitoring.

Clarus Networks Group is installing a Kymeta flat panel (above) in Shetland which, when finished later this week, will link to OneWeb’s constellation of low earth orbit (LEO) satellites to beam high-speed, reliable broadband connections to the island from low earth orbit.

The UK government says this trial marks its first commercial roll-out in Europe and forms part of the government’s Alpha Trial programme launched in December to test the capability and viability of low orbit satellites to deliver high-speed connectivity to communities in very hard to reach areas.

At the same time the UK government has allocated up to £1.5 million in funding for six local authority-led pilots. This will have to be matched by smart service providers working with the participating local authorities, to procure and test innovative smart multi-purpose columns or lampposts, with projects having to apply by early July.

The underwhelming, short term projects were announced by a UK minister at London Tech Week as part of a package of initiatives, although there is no mention of the promised semiconductor support.

“Our announcements will help ensure that everyone, no matter where they live, has access to high-speed broadband and other digital services that they need to thrive in the 21st century,” said UK Minister for Data and Digital Infrastructure, Sir John Whittingdale. “Improving Papa Stour’s connectivity is a major milestone in our efforts to close the digital divide as it transforms the lives of the island’s residents and visitors.”

“Until now, Papa Stour residents have been constrained due to unreliable and slow internet connectivity. We are excited to partner to bring lightning fast and reliable internet to the island for the first time. This installation is a landmark step in connecting remote communities, offering new possibilities for UK business and tourism,” said Paul Coffey, CTO of the Clarus Networks Group.

“OneWeb has always sought to use satellite connectivity to bridge the digital divide for communities and business around the world. Connectivity is vital for all but especially so for the most remote communities, and we are delighted to be working with the government and our partners on this trial to bring high-speed, low latency connectivity to those living and working on the island,” said Neil Masterson, CEO of OneWeb.

“By turning lamp posts and other road infrastructure into smart devices such as public wifi points, the government are investing in the ways everyday transport infrastructure can be transformed for a greener, cleaner future,” said Technology and Decarbonisation Minister Jesse Norman.

“This programme will boost connectivity across the country and increase electric vehicle charging access, helping us to reach our net zero goals.”

The deadline for applications is Friday 7 July at 23:59:59 GMT, and applicants can find out how to enter Smart Infrastructure Pilots Programme (SIPP) competition.

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