Community engagement update: How does MANY start to build a digital network?


The aim of the MANY project, which is funded via the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport £200million 5G Testbed and Trials project, is to improve the case for investment in rural connectivity. In order to do this, the project is testing more cost and energy efficient ways to enable the latest digital infrastructure so rural communities can access the latest technology – 5G.

Technical feasibility study

In past blogs the MANY project has talked about the technical feasibility studies it has carried out to ascertain whether it can deliver connectivity into an area. This study looks at a number of factors such as: location including National Park status; the terrain; what land is available and can a lease agreement be obtained; visual impact to the area and other properties; all weather vehicle access and parking; power availability into the area; is Ofcom spectrum available and will it be granted; how the infrastructure connects to the providers core backhaul network and how it interacts with its adjacent masts; what other providers are in the area; how many properties it will cover as well as considering the cost effective solutions.

This work can take many months.

For the MANY project this has been going on since June 2020. Led by partners Quickline Communications – the largest Independent Internet Service Provider in the UK – the project has been working to understand the location and find suitable solutions for the North end of Coverdale.

How are mast locations identified?

Once the initial technical feasibility studies have been completed, the project then has to find the best locations to ensure the most effective coverage.

Using wireless technology means the project needs fewer masts than fixed solutions (i.e. fibre to the premise). This is because they work by line of sight – put simply; the antenna on top of the masts can see a feeder or transmission site – moving the data through the air via radio waves. Using a software system and mapping database called WSDM – owned by MANY partner Wireless Coverage – the modelling system, gives the project an accurate understanding of how a specific frequency signal is likely to cover a selected area.

Ultimately, this means the project can identify locations for masts to get the most effective solution for the area, whilst causing the least disturbance.

Once these locations have been identified, discussions take place with landowners, Ofcom, Parish Councils and – if necessary – planning permission is sought via the relevant authorities.

In order for the North end of Coverdale to be covered, the project has been able to offer a solution of three masts:

Penhill Farm, West Scrafton and Leyburn Quarry, where it will link back to Quicklines’ core fibre network just off the A1.

All of these factors need to be in place before we can guarantee that connectivity can be brought into an area.

Facts about the masts

The location the project works in has a big impact on the style of masts used. The North End of Coverdale is within the Yorkshire Dales National Park meaning the project takes this into account – early on – when looking at the types of masts which will be erected.

Quickline Communications core business is to bring connectivity to rural communities therefore, working with these areas is something they are famliar with and approach with sensititivity.

The masts, which will be erected, are 15m high wooden poles – similar to telegraph poles – this is key to connecting the National Park, so it doesn’t look out of place or obtrusive. The masts will have antenna attached to them, coloured brown to blend in with the mast.

Do you have a question? Email us or call us on 0300 400 4444.

There is still time to book onto our community engagement events being held on the 4th and 10th February.