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Challenge / Goal

The Orkney Islands are consistently ranked as one of the least connected places in the UK. Instead of ‘Hot spots’ the archipelago of 70 islands hosts ‘Not spots’ – zones with low to zero internet connectivity.

With residents reporting over 10 minutes wait time to download an email, the challenge was to find a way to deliver a fit-for-purpose 5G internet service to people and companies to prove the business case for rural connectivity in the Orkney islands and across two other test sites in Somerset and Shropshire.


Creating and leading the 5G RuralFirst consortium we partnered with the UK government to implement 5G technologies and a series of tests and trials to demonstrate the business case for rural connectivity.

On the Orkney Islands we installed Li-Fi, an alternative to Wi-Fi which uses light rather than radio waves to transmit data. Our team installed a central communications hub on the lighthouse of Graemsay, a small island in the southwest of the archipelago surrounded by rough tides and home to 30 residents. Connectivity is transmitted from Graemsay lighthouse directly into residents’ home via light, as an ordinary lightbulb becomes a wireless access point thanks to Li-Fi technology.

As a popular tourist destination, the archipelago’s already slow network often struggles to cope with the additional demand for connectivity due to tourism. To address this, we deployed OpenRoaming to allow tourists and residents to seamlessly move from one Wi-Fi hotspot to another. When a tourist arrives at Kirkwall port they do a one time authentication and are then able to access Wi-Fi across the island without needing to log in multiple times as they move across Wi-Fi hotspots at popular tourist destinations.

To support local businesses, we deployed connectivity and IoT technology to a number of rural industries including wind farms, salmon farms and a whisky distillery.  Salmon is the UK’s number 1 food export and we worked with Scottish Sea Farms (sole provider of salmon to Marks & Spencer) to monitor the health of their salmon. With over 25,000 fish to monitor per cage, there was a lot of data to collect from salmon farms located in distant off-shore locations with often dangerous weather conditions. Our IoT sensors measure salinity, temperature and oxygen in the water to work out the best times to feed the fish and then automatically dispense food as needed.   This ensures not only optimum care for the fish but can safeguard the safety of workers, meaning people do not need to travel out to the cages in treacherous weather conditions.


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Cisco; RuralFirst Consortium Partners; UK Government; Scottish Sea Farms

Service providers

Cisco; RuralFirst Consortium Partners

End users

All Citizens

    Main benefits

  • Improved broadband access

  • Enhancing tourism experience

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