A new trial seeking innovative ways to deliver high-speed connectivity to rural areas has begun in the Scottish Islands, with technologies including 5G, solar power and Li-Fi being used to bring broadband to residents.
The pilot scheme is taking place on Graemsay in the Orkney Islands, where it has proved challenging to deliver connectivity via standard methods due to the island's geography. As a result, residents are stuck using copper-based connectivity with speeds often struggling to reach 2Mbps.
Computer Weekly reports the trial, which is being run by 5G RuralFirst, uses one of the island's two 19th-century lighthouses as a communications hub, with this fitted out with 5G connectivity. It then delivers outdoor Li-Fi over the last mile to the island's homes, using domestic solar panels as receivers and infrared lasers as transmitters.
Meanwhile, residents can also take advantage of indoor Li-Fi in their homes, using USB dongles to collect data transmitted via LED light bulbs.
Li-Fi, or light fidelity technology, uses the visible light spectrum to transmit data as opposed to the radio frequencies used by Wi-Fi, and works by modulating standard LED light bulbs at speeds imperceptible to the human eye.
Harald Haas, director of the Li-FI Research and Development Centre at the University of Edinburgh and CSO of pureLiFi, said Li-Fi enables Graemsay to utilise the spectrum of visible light in two ways; providing affordable last-mile connectivity and high-speed indoor wireless networking.
He stated both of these areas will be essential in overcoming the challenges of delivering high-speed connectivity to the most remote parts of the UK, and Graemsay is now the first place in the country to harness solar panels as outdoor broadband detectors and ordinary LED lamps in homes as wireless access points.
Dez O'Connor, 5G RuralFirst project chief technology officer and Cisco business development manager for global service providers, added: "Li-Fi is a particularly sustainable solution to provide wireless connectivity and can be managed by residents themselves and combined with existing networks."