Cisco UK & Ireland Blog

[Podcast] Bridging the UK’s digital divide: Reaching beyond the city with 5G RuralFirst

November 6, 2018

There’s a real divide between the UK’s rural and urban areas when it comes to connectivity.

According to OfCom’s latest Connected Nations Report, round 17% of rural areas don’t have access to decent broadband services, compared with just 2% in urban zones. (‘Decent broadband’ is defined by OfCom as a connection capable of 10 megabits per second download speeds and 1 megabit per second uploads.)

It’s a similar story when you look at 4G connectivity: just 18% of rural premises can receive an indoor 4G service from all operators, compared to 64% of premises in urban areas.

The reason for this digital divide is fairly straightforward: it’s much harder for service providers to justify making investments in less populated areas. And as the gap between rural and urban connectivity gets bigger, so does the impact of not addressing it

But just because there are fewer people in these rural and remote areas, doesn’t necessarily mean there are fewer business opportunities.

Industries like tourism and agriculture offer huge opportunities for the UK’s rural area –farming already contributes heavily to the £111 billion GVA of the agri-food sector, and tourism in Scotland is estimated to be worth more than £11 billion.

In episode four of MACRO, we find out how new 5G technology is being used to connect the UK’s rural and remote communities, as 5G is not a numbers game anymore.

Our story starts on a ski slope in Glencoe, and takes in state-of-the-art dairy farms in Somerset, self-driving tractors in Shropshire, and the people living at Scotland’s remotest edges – on the Orkney Islands.

MACRO is Cisco’s innovation podcast. In each installment we take a deep dive into the innovation projects that Cisco is involved in, taking a closer look at the technologies changing the world – and changing it for the better.

Subscribe to the series anywhere you get your podcasts, and catch up with the previous three episodes below:

To find out more about the 5G RuralFirst project, head over to

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