A project in a rural part of Scotland’s north east Highlands aims to explore and develop new business models for digital telecommunications infrastructure.

Although healthcare is the project’s principal use case, patchy geographical digital connectivity is a major factor limiting the development and deployment of connected and autonomous vehicles and other new mobility services.

The consortium of research partners – working in support of Moray Council’s regional growth deal – could pave the way for better connectivity in remote and rural areas by creating a new commercial model for delivering critical telecommunications infrastructure.

The partners want to address the digital divide between areas that have access to fast, reliable telecommunications – typically large population centres – and communities that experience limited access to increasingly vital services, many of which are in rural Scotland.

Censis – Scotland’s Innovation Centre for sensing, imaging, and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies – the Scotland 5G Centre, and Digital Health & Care Innovation Centre (DHI) have received funding from the Scottish Government to develop an economic model that could redefine the assessments behind infrastructure deployment, prioritising the potential value to communities over cost.

The consortium’s feasibility study will draw on a wider range of factors to determine the overall viability of network infrastructure, rather than relying purely on the number of people in a given area.

While the project’s main geographical focus will be Moray, it will also examine how the same model might be applied to rural and remote areas in the south of Scotland. Furthermore, the principles developed by the study could be employed by communities in the UK and potentially across the world.