Cisco helps ease blight of tourism on Orkney's Wi-Fi hotspot network thanks to £4.3m grant

*grumble* Coming over here... hogging our internets *groan*

Cisco has begun live trials of its OpenRoaming technology on the Orkney islands off the north coast of Scotland, intended to allow people to move more easily between Wi-Fi hotspots.

The trial is part of the UK government's £25m 5G RuralFirst testbeds programme. Last year it awarded a £4.3m grant to Switchzilla and the University of Strathclyde to deliver testbeds and trials of 5G in Orkney and the farmlands of Shropshire, England.

5G RuralFirst is working with Cisco to test the tech in Kirkwall, Orkney's largest town. Users will automatically join Wi-Fi networks (depending on their mobile settings) whenever they enter a hotspot via 4G and 5G devices.

It is working with local service provider CloudNet and will use a combination of mobile and fibre technology.

When the islands receive an influx of tourists, the network struggles with the rising demand for connectivity and data. "It starts to slow down, and even fail completely," the 5G RuralFirst blog noted last month.

But as Mark Jackson from ISP Review points out, the success of the project could be dependent on how many different hotspot providers agree to join.

"As such it remains to be seen how much adoption this gets in the wild, but no doubt many people would welcome a system that could actually deliver on the promise of seamless and secure public Wi-Fi connectivity between the many different networks," he said.

Last month the government threw a further £30m to fund the rollout of 5G in rural areas across 10 locations.

However, the Infrastructure Project Authority recently cast doubt on the government's 5G trials programme, pointing to delays caused by 5G equipment availability and complex setups.

One expert familiar with the trials, who asked not to be named, said equipment availability has been a problem because the main suppliers would typically rather supply their large customers rather than small, government-funded projects. ®

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