Case studies are an integral part of the Mobile Access North Yorkshire project, giving an insight into the many aspects of the project.
The following case studies are residents stories; the lived experiences and hopes of how improved connectivity – via 5G – will improve lives and livelihoods.
Community engagement case study: The Saddle Rooms
Bringing £1million per year to the local economy, The Saddle Rooms is integral to the local area. The hospitality business attracts visitors to stay in its on-site accommodation, eat in its restaurant, houses a wedding and conference facility and has an ethos to use local.
The restaurant, venue and accommodation brings 50,000 visitors per year to the area but it has ambitions to grow to ensure visitors have more to do, meaning they stay in the area for longer. However, in order for this to be realised, they need to attract more high quality staff through the door.
This is a UK wide problem for the industry. The Tupgill Estate – where The Saddle Room is located – knows it can offer a quality of life for the right person. However, one thing that is preventing it is the lack of digital connectivity. Leo Morris, the manager at The Saddle Rooms explains ‘we can offer a really good working and living environment which will not only help us but, also, the local economy, yet digital connectivity is key – people who live and work here want to be like normal people and be able to communicate efficiently’.
Leo explains ‘myself and the team can work 16 hour days when we have weddings. That is a hard shift and you cannot just say no to working or risk spoiling someone’s big day as this is a high-pressure situation and you only have one shot to get it 100% perfect. When wedding speeches are on, I could be ringing my kids to say goodnight, but because we have no signal it makes things difficult’.
This is Leo’s personal experience but the sentiment is felt across the team. Often staff will drive onto the Moors to speak to loved ones during their breaks. Leo’s need to support the wellbeing of his staff is one of the factors that drives his connectivity ambitions.
However, the lack of connectivity is not just about giving staff the chance to engage with their friends and relatives on breaks. It is, also, about making sure that everyone is contactable across the 400-acre site. ‘We need to be able to get hold of them for day-to-day reasons but, also, in an emergency’ Leo says. ‘We have had a situation recently where someone got trapped under a digger and they couldn’t ring for help – we just heard someone shouting and screaming’ explains Leo.
Luckily, these are rare occurrences. What the business struggles with is being able to get hold of maintenance or housekeeping staff easily in order for it to run seamlessly. Modern business relies on quick communication whether it be verifying identity or being contactable immediately.
Apps are available to support the smooth running of a hospitality business – one example is Flex Keeping, which, The Saddle Room uses. Leo explains ‘it links housekeeping, to the front desk to maintenance and lost and found. Anyone can use it and allows the whole team to communicate across the site in real time. Though, for it to work properly – like any other five star business – we need to have connectivity. We can’t upload instantly if we haven’t got reliable WIFI or mobile data’.
Still, the latest 5G connectivity can do more.
The Saddle Rooms ‘has never had a masterplan’ admits Leo. Along with no digital connectivity, it has no mainland gas. Gas is integral to a hospitality businesses ‘chefs prefer to cook with gas as it gives instant heat but if we run out of gas we are in trouble’ says Leo.
Although rare. This has happened.
Yet put the latest digital connectivity – 5G – in place then the business can access new Internet of Things technology, which has the ability to stop this happening via tank telemetry using real time data alerting the office when tanks are low. ‘Currently we have two people – one for The Saddle Rooms and one for Forbidden Corner – check the nine tanks in foul weather every week’ Leo says. If a reliable, fast connection were available, this would not need to happen. ‘We shouldn’t need to think about it – no one else does. It would save hours, it would ensure we didn’t have these issues in the future’ says Leo.
From a customer’s perspective, these problems are all behind the scenes. Yet put digital connectivity in and they can positively affect the customer experience.
For example, being able to: instantly be told their room is available; upload a picture to social media; download the latest shows from Netflix; or order at the bar online. Customers expect the best service and connectivity can help. ‘The AA have identified in order of importance for customers, connections is number two after cleanliness – mobile and/or broadband’ says Leo, so when it is not available they find it frustrating and confusing. Some guests have even left when they discover there is none available.
A consistent, fast connection offers growth. It gives the business the ability to communicate with a wider audience – further than just a web or social media presence. To be competitive you have to offer more. ‘70% of our business is national’ Leo says. ‘Having reliable, ultra-fast broadband would allow us to do things like virtual personalised show arounds’ as 5G reduces buffering times offering a better experience to the end user. Being able to offer these type of activities is integral especially under the current restrictions. ‘From a customer perspective it would be brilliant and put us into a different league allowing us to embrace new and modern technological capability’s’. Allowing the business to grow, supporting the sustainability of the area.
Another area The Saddle Rooms has the potential to develop is its conference business. ‘The days of going abroad on a private jet are gone’ believes Leo, ‘but businesses need to be able to bring people together and build the team’. Yet, without a mobile signal or a reliable and robust broadband network, business will not come. ‘CEOs will want to ‘Zoom’ in and people will still want to have communication – either a signal to take calls – more likely via facetime or something similar now and/or to be able to get their emails’ says Leo. 5G would offer these fast download speeds meaning a seamless offering ensuring rural areas are able to provide urban facilities in beautiful surroundings.
Digital connectivity is key to this development and future proofing the business. 5G can successfully provide this to rural businesses such as The Saddle Room by using the same frequencies available throughout the UK but combining it with newly available technology. ‘Being part of the MANY project means we get the benefits of mobile communications for us to move the business forward but, also, to keep our staff and customers safe and happy’
But it’s not just about this one business. Getting people to The Saddle Rooms and The Tupgill Estate – be that as a visitor for work or pleasure or to live and work – gives back to the local economy. ‘We want to bring people here and keep people in the area’ Leo says. ‘If we can do that we cause a ripple effect for the network of rural businesses.’
Connect one rural business via 5G can connect many. Driving the local economy, allowing it to compete with its urban neighbours.
Community engagement case study: Farming
Farming is a way of the North Yorkshire Dales life – 2,683 people were directly employed in the rural land-based sector in 2017. The industry has developed over the past 50 years and now digitalisation is an integral part of modern agriculture.
Yet, parts of the Dales has limited connectivity. This affects the development and day-to-day running of such an important rural business, employer and vital part of rural society. Tim Brown and his family are in such a position – based in Agglethorpe in Coverdale – they own three holdings, which are about five miles apart.
‘The farm home has about 20% reception’ says Tim ‘I know where to stand to get reception but calls can just drop off, which is frustrating’. The top farm, based near Horsehouse, has only 1% reception and the low farm has fantastic reception. ‘It’s frustrating that it is so inconsistent’.
Tim, his father and son, Edward who has just finished at Newton Rigg College near Penrith, and has ambitions to take over, works the farm. ‘There are loads of things we could do and Edward has many ideas but, at the minute, we cannot even do the basics’ says Tim.
He continues ‘simple things like being able to update records whilst out; but because we do not have mobile connections we cannot. Cattle have to be registered within fourteen days of their birth. Tim could take the information home and use the broadband to upload, yet, the family broadband has been known to go down for weeks at a time due to being reliant on old copper wires, which is affected by the weather. This means that Tim has to resort to using paper because ‘if we move it online and then the broadband goes down, we will have to revert back and that’s when mistakes happen’ Tim says.
5G would allow the family to scan tags using their phones and update records of pedigree animals instantaneously. It, also, could offer new opportunities ensuring the farm works more efficiently.
Even the things that most people take for granted are difficult. ‘We don’t do online banking because of the connection’ says Sarah, Tim’s partner who works part time as well as helping on the farm. ‘We can’t rely on it – whether that is payments going through or invoices being sent’. The family are often left checking transactions have taken place.
Digital connectivity is supposed to take away these worries – supporting a business and family – not cause more stress.
However, in areas such as Coverdale, this is not the case.
Tim, other farmers and businesses are working twice as hard to keep up with the rest of the country. ‘Big businesses aren’t interested in us. There are only four houses up our area – so for the larger companies – it is not cost effective’ says Tim. Yet, the family still have to pay the same amount as those who have reliable broadband and mobile connections – some of which are just a few miles away – ‘we’re paying a premium but not getting the service; putting simply it’s not fair’.
Moreover, this is happening in a business, which the Health and Safety Executive, in 2019/20, said was an accident-prone industry.
Many farmers, including Tim, are totally alone whilst working and having no mobile signal enhances this. ‘I can’t get hold of him when he is out’ Sarah states. ‘I often don’t know where he is and when you farm you have to work late’. Tim’s dad, at 75, still works on the farm. ‘His wife worries’ says Sarah; ‘more so now then she used to’. If something happens, we don’t have the luxury of that protection’. Tim agrees. ‘If you have no mobile phone coverage and there is an emergency there is nothing you can do about it when you’re out of signal’.
Digital connectivity is something, which everyone should be able to rely on. For farmers who work long hours, this may include being able to call home but, for young farmers, keeping in touch with their friends is integral. Sarah says ‘Edward – who is 19 – uses platforms such as Facebook and Snapchat to keep in touch, yet, when he is here he can’t’.
Keeping in touch supports the mental health of individuals. It cannot be right that farmers are left isolated because their livelihood – an integral sector – is in rural communities.
5G offers the basics but it, also, allows businesses to develop.
Tim says ‘we want to put cameras in the calving sheds’. This would give the family the opportunity to see in real time what is happening – during an integral part of their year, for security of their livestock but, also, so just knowing where people are. Currently, to achieve this the family would have to lay hardwire. Yet, 5G would offer wireless connections – something which the MANY project is keen to use to enable digital connectivity into the area. A cost effective solution, which has the potential to be scaled up for other areas and benefit the communities, which have consistently missed out.
Supporting a business is one aspect a 5G connection can do. It also aids domestic life.
A few weeks ago, the electricity company came to fit a SMART metre at the farm. A SMART metre is known as an energy and cost saving solution. However, in order for it to work, a reliable connection is required and that is one thing this family do not have. As Tim says ‘it is pretty useless’. 5G would allow this to work in a way, which is right for the family using intelligent connections via the Internet of Things, but, also, open up other opportunities.
Nevertheless, as it stands, with limited connectivity a SMART metre is near useless, as is many other innovations, which the rest of the country benefit from because of the lack of investment made to the digital infrastructure in the area. Yet, the family’s requirements for their broadband are not over and above any other working family.
Since the Covid pandemic – like most – Sarah works from home. This means logging onto remote systems and attending virtual meetings. When the broadband is reliable, it has been an easy switch to make. Sarah’s is not.
‘My broadband crashes, I have been kicked out of meetings on numerous occasions and I have just given up – it is stressful, frustrating and unprofessional and, also, a lot of time is wasted’.
Sarah reflects ‘it is lucky that our son has been able to continue at school because our connections wouldn’t have coped (with remote learning). We know families who have poor broadband who are now classed as vulnerable so their children can get a place in school’.
For rural families, a 5G connection can offer an integrated reliable and robust connection – both in and outside the home.
‘Young people tend to move away from Coverdale at working age but they are keen to move back when they are ready to start a family’ Sarah says, continuing ‘it’s idyllic – a chocolate box place to live but it doesn’t offer what families want’.
Which (2020) states that asking about mobile phone coverage and broadband is an integral question to ask when looking to move house. The North Yorkshire Rural Commission (2020) further stated that digital connectivity should be a ‘basic human right’. ‘Families will not move here’ Sarah says, ‘partly due to the house prices but, also, because the area does not give them the basics. We’re already seeing it – I don’t think there are any under 9 year olds live here and our local school has had to link to another because of lack of numbers attending’ Sarah adds.
However, put in the basic requirements, giving people what they want. ‘It will bring people to the area; making the place thrive. Ensuring its future’ Sarah concludes.
Community engagement case study: Sam Lambert
The MANY project has heard from residents that young people are moving away because the rural location does not give them what they need. Having spoken to many people in the area, the project was keen to hear from young people who still live in the area. Sam Lambert – 21 – came to our rescue. Sam tells us what it is like living in the ‘dale.
‘I have lived here all my life’ Sam says, ‘we own a third generation livestock farm’. Unlike his brother, Sam has branched out and works at an architectural firm in Stokesley. ‘I do about a 100mile round trip a day’ he says ‘that’s only because there is no work nearer. There is very little prosperity apart from farming here’.
Currently completing a University apprenticeship with an architectural company. The industry is heavily swaying towards working from home environments either part time or full time however, there is a limiting factor – the digital connectivity in the area. ‘The network coverage doesn’t support what I am doing’ says Sam. ‘and so I can’t realistically and effectively work from home.’
‘My mum wanted to work from home a few years ago and we got an engineer out to check our speeds’ he says ‘he basically told us it wasn’t possible’. His mum works in Leyburn but if Sam wants to Work from home in the area, he needs to be able to rely on fast and robust connections.
‘In my job, I work in a team of four or five people’ Sam says ‘we work on the same 3D design and when we work from home, we are all working collaboratively on the same designs’. This means that Sam needs fast connections to work in real time with his other colleagues. If I re-design part of a building, it links back to a local server which is what my team members link back to as well but that’s where the problem is – the network isn’t good enough, so if I modify something in real time, my colleagues drawings may not update to see these modifications which ultimately causes problems and errors which could be avoided with a super-fast connection. This means that during Covid – when the Government have been telling people to work from home – Sam has been forced to work in the office – at least when he is working on designs. ‘It takes me 30 seconds to access a drawing in the office, at home; it can take 40minutes to open the same drawing or even may not open at all.
A 5G connection would offer faster speeds meaning little or no buffering and coping with a large amount of people connecting at one time. Sam says ‘technology is always evolving and updating’, yet for rural areas WIFI is stuck back in the noughties when it was put in – ‘I think we got broadband in the early 2000s; what we had then was fine for what we needed it for’ Sam says.
Things have moved on. ‘It took 110hours to do an update on my work computer recently’ Sam says. Yet, people in rural areas shouldn’t be left with this only option ‘it’s dangerous – when computers are on for that long it heats up’ Sam says, yet this is many people’s only option in rural communities.
Nevertheless, Sam wants to stay at least in the short time but ‘most of my friends have moved away. People get to 16/17 and want more’ he says. Most have moved into towns and cities either for jobs or university and Sam says ‘they won’t move back. They have everything on their doorstep, there is no need to’. However, Sam also thinks that ‘the internet speeds encourage residents to leave the dale for more prosperous online working without the limitations of poor WIFI’. Driving a lot of working age people away from the area.
‘Most residents here are of retirement age, they move here for the quiet life – they may not need or want connectivity’, he says, adding ‘but the bottom line is there are still people trying to work and prosper and a 5G network would be a massive benefit’. Sam continues ‘it would entice younger people and younger families to move back into the ‘dale and start their own business or working from home’. This sentiment is backed by a recent survey (2020) undertaken by the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) who found that 1 in 2 young people wanted to swap the city for the countryside yet, digital connectivity and the ability to do an existing job from the new location was key to the move.
According to Sam, 5G would also allow the ‘dale to diversify – by bringing people to the area and allowing current residents to develop side businesses’. Not only this, but it would, also, support current business ‘Coverdale is known for its dominant farming communities which have been developed through generations of farming’ he says. However, due to the WIFI speeds and lack of network across the area, it is becoming increasingly difficult. ‘5G would allow us to use GPS automated tractor systems, live camera feeds in buildings as well as scanning livestock to upload straight into a database’. ‘The opportunities are endless making jobs easier, more efficient and making lives more prosperous’ Sam says. A sentiment, which the project has heard from others within the ‘dale.
However, 5G would also enable contact as it offers a hybrid of both mobile and broadband via the possibility of reaching areas where fixed digital connectivity cannot.
Currently, Sam says ‘if we get a tractor stuck out on the moor or roll a quad bike on top of ourselves there is currently no way of getting help’ because there is no mobile signal or at the very least its intermittent. Using a wireless network means residents and visitors could connect either via 5G enabled phones – which are becoming more readily available – or via MIFI devices which allow people to link to networks. In an area, which has two of the highest risk, industries – farming and racehorse training – people should have the opportunity to connect for protection and safety.
5G offers communities like this a viable solution – where difficult terrain prevents or severely hinders the laying of fixed digital wires.