Dumfries & Galloway to host Scotland’s first rural 5G connectivity hub

Farming and rural healthcare are among the sectors set to benefit from 5G hub, which will bring together technological expertise, academic research and local businesses

The Crichton, a business and academic campus in Dumfries, is to host Scotland’s first rural 5G connectivity hub.

The hub will bring together technological expertise, academic research and local businesses to accelerate the potential of 5G to transform communities and economies throughout the south of Scotland. The S5GConnect Dumfries hub will also have a dedicated 5G network with advanced capabilities, including a testbed that will enable small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to test products, services and systems.

The choice of Dumfries for the first rural hub in the Scottish government-funded £4m programme to establish a network of 5G innovation hubs across the country is said to reflect a “longstanding” commitment to deliver enhanced connectivity across all areas of Scotland.

The new facility – the third of its kind following the establishment of hubs in Forth Valley and Dundee – is part of S5GConnect, a programme designed to deliver the Scottish government’s 5G Strategy through a network of hubs to help establish Scotland as a leading 5G nation, providing a platform for SMEs, entrepreneurs and corporates to explore the benefits of enhanced connectivity.

Created by the Scotland 5G Centre, the national centre for encouraging use of 5G, the S5GConnect programme is seen as a catalyst to increase awareness about 5G and lead to the development of new products, services and applications.

A dedicated team has been recruited for the S5GConnect hub at The Crichton to work with local partners and businesses. With digital connectivity an issue in a number of areas of southern Scotland, the 5G hub will bring together industry, academia and government bodies on a series of projects to explore opportunities that offer considerable benefits to local businesses and communities, including net zero manufacturing, farming and agriculture, and sustainable and connected housing.

Projects include the development of 5G-based agritech solutions, in which sensors and drones are used to measure crop growth, animal behaviour and wellness; and remote healthcare initiatives, including the use of 5G technology to support assisted living.

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“Our S5GConnect programme will equip businesses and entrepreneurs across Dumfries & Galloway with the skills they need to understand how 5G can benefit their business,” said Scotland 5G Centre CEO Paul Coffey. “It is planned over three levels – kicking off with raising awareness of the scope of 5G, followed by more detailed evaluation of the business possibilities, culminating in months of in-depth support to scale up and test using our dedicated 5G private network.”

The Crichton, an 85-acre parkland estate on the edge of Dumfries, is home to more than 90 organisations, including five academic partners. The S5GConnect hub there is being supported by South of Scotland Enterprise (SOSE).

“This is a hugely exciting project which will have a significant impact on the south of Scotland, “ said Gwilym Gibbons, chief executive of registered charity and social enterprise The Crichton Trust. “We believe that 5G connectivity will enable our rural communities to experience the power of fast connectivity and the opportunities this brings for innovation and the future economy, helping to generate the solutions and services we require to meet the challenges of our ageing society, the climate crisis and the fourth industrial revolution.

“Solutions that start in Dumfries can scale and be replicated into our neighbouring rural and urban areas and exported across the world.”

A programme of virtual events will start in June with a series of in-person events at the hubs from September.

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