Meeting the challenge of “universal” coverage, reach and reliability in the coming 5G era; Everyone can foresee a gigantic capacity challenge for wireless networks over the coming decades. The research community is responding well by developing 5G technology in higher bands (eg mmWave) that will unlock huge data rates up to 10 Gb/s or more but its practical application will be limited to dense urban areas.
This inevitably leads to a new coverage challenge being pulled behind this capacity challenge i.e, the coverage of higher speeds and capacity. Nowhere will this challenge be greater than in rural areas where it will be an economic struggle to significantly lift the capacity above the current 4G coverage prediction of 2 Mb/s. Yet in spite of such a glaring need there is scant attention being paid by the 5G research community to improving universal mobile coverage. This White Paper is based on a brain-storming workshop on Rural 5G held at the 5GIC in 2015. The paper reviews a range of possible ways to improve rural coverage without regard to whether this needs new technology or just a more radical way of applying existing technology. This is in the spirit of the 5GIC’s vision of 5G being both a new technology and at the same time being the envelope within which all the technologies (new and existing) work together to deliver “always sufficient” resources to match users’ demands.