The purpose of the project Rural ICT Testbed – #fulltäckning is to investigate what opportunities there are to achieve improved or, at best, full Internet coverage in rural areas. The project addresses both economic, social and cultural values that combined contribute to a more vibrant rural area. The starting point is innovative use of modern wireless technology.
– The technique itself is not a problem. It is rather the operators, the infrastructure and business models, says Jaap van de Beek, professor of Signal Processing and one of the researchers who will be involved in the project.
Infrastructure important for the result
The researchers have identified three methods that could contribute to improved coverage. First, already existing infrastructure, such as TV masts, must be reused. Second; if there is no existing infrastructure, the public sector must build such. Finally, the operators need to be better at sharing and interacting with respect to infrastructure.
Within the project, there are three challenges to be solved: inclusion, safety and value increase.
– Even the rural areas should have 100 Mbit/s and it can be achieved at low cost with the right technology. Local residents and tourists should have mobile coverage everywhere and tourism, agriculture and forestry, transport, mining and other industries should not be hampered by lack of communication, says Jaap van de Beek.
Pilots will bring solutions
During the project period, two pilots will also be implemented; a so-called rural hotspot and an attempt to optimize coverage using existing technology. For example, a rural hotspot could be a farm that already has access to fiber, but where the farmer stands without coverage as soon as she leaves the farm.
– A solution could be some form of roaming where the farmer can remotely connect to his own network, explains Jaap van de Beek.
The other pilot is about modeling and simulations to optimize existing networks for better coverage over a larger geographic area. In order to achieve the project goals, the participating parties represent a variety of industries and interests from both the private and public sectors, a consciously extensive group of partners.
– We believe that the diversity will contribute positively to the results of the project, and not least in terms of the important impact work. Through the project, the partners are also given the opportunity to actually speak with a single voice, says Karl Andersson.
Alternative methods for Norrbotten
Johanna Lindberg is broadband coordinator at Region Norrbotten, one of the project partners. According to her, good coverage is necessary if community services are going to function and for businesses and people to be able to work in rural areas of northern Sweden. She also believes that digitization in Norrbotten requires more innovative solutions than in the rest of the country.
– We have other conditions in Norrbotten. I hope that this project can contribute to the creation of new business models and the use of existing technologies in new ways. We need to share technology and thus share the costs, says Johanna Lindberg.
– Probably, not everyone will be able to get fiber, but at least a significantly more mobile phone coverage than today.