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Smart Rural 21 & 5G: The challenge of connecting rural areas

Nov 17, 2020

smart-rural-21-project-and-5g-technologyThe movement of people in search of opportunities not available to them in their birthplaces has always been taking place.

The last most significant migrations of people in Spain for example were:

  • The rural flight, driven by the industrial revolution, which intensified in the 20 th century and led to ghost towns and what we now call “Empty Spain”.
  • The urban exodus of the last decade, which has led many young people to leave their small and medium-sized towns to find work in the two big Spanish cities, Madrid and Barcelona.

In the past year, however, alongside the emergence of the pandemic, and even after the strict lockdown throughout the country ended, we have seen teleworking grow from 5 to 34%. Many companies have decided to extend teleworking as an option for employees to choose in the future. In the minds of all those qualified young people who migrated from their towns or small and medium-sized cities to Madrid or Barcelona due to the lack of opportunities in their birthplaces, this is the gateway to a world full of possibilities, in which they can work for a company in, say, Madrid, but teleworking from any provincial city, town or house by the sea.

Teleworking has come to stay

Teleworking in rural areas was already on the rise in the pre-pandemic landscape – with coworking spaces already established in remote villages –, but the coronavirus has given it an unexpected boost. We are all aware of many of the advantages of this type of remote work:

  • Employees can live where they want and not where their jobs are located.
  • Flexible work options and reduced commuting time result in a better work-life balance and less pollution.
  • Companies can attract qualified talent, reduce turnover by retaining employees, reduce infrastructure costs, and so forth.

There are also a lot of advantages to be gained in rural areas, where teleworking can help combat depopulation and population aging. The rural world is a country’s main source of natural resources and it is vitally important that we boost it to achieve greater sustainability of rural territory, offset the ecological footprint and stimulate innovation and agricultural development, as well as to strengthen social wellbeing. This latter point refers to the fact that rural society grows in harmony with fundamental values for society as a whole (such as respect, solidarity, collaboration and helping neighbors), though, unfortunately, these values are tending to disappear in today’s impersonal big cities.

The Smart Rural Area project

This trend has hit a bump in the road, however, in the shape of telecommunications. According to the latest 2019 report from the Spanish Secretary of State for Telecommunications and Digital Infrastructures, 13.4% of rural Spaniards are without access to broadband above 30 Mbps.

The European Union is already working on creating digital infrastructure in rural areas with a project called “Smart Rural Areas in the 21 st Century – Smart Rural 21”. The aim is to promote growth in areas that have aging populations with an investment of 365 million euros through the “European Innovation Partnership on Smart Cities and Communities” program. And within the Smart Rural concept, remote work is defined as a fundamental driver. In fact, the application deadline for this program was May of this year and a total of 736 applications were submitted, with Spain being the European country submitting the most applications.

How can 5G help the Smart Rural initiative?

5G technology has a very important role to play in addressing the smart rural challenge. It will provide 10 times faster broadband speed, more network capacity and 10 times less latency or response time. This speed and low latency could become the defining aspects of the remote work tool revolution, in both urban and rural settings.

Technological development in rural areas would give companies and employees the advantages described above.  But undoubtedly, less-favored rural areas might be unexpectedly spared from bankruptcy thanks to this progress, benefitting society as a whole by preserving the rural world and its advantages.

At Teldat, we are committed to many different aspects of 5G technology. Our R&D department has been working for some time on a range of different 5G solutions, and these will come onto the market shortly.


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