5G RuralFirst testbed announces OpenRoaming in Orkney

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Cisco has launched a first-of-its-kind initiative that will allow people to move seamlessly from one Wi-Fi hotspot to another as part of the 5G RuralFirst testbed in Orkney.

The OpenRoaming technology is being trialled in Orkney as part of an ambitious testbed for connectivity in rural areas. The project aims to demonstrate the potential and practical use cases that connectivity could bring to rural businesses across the UK.

Wireless internet provider, CloudNet, is enabling Orkney residents and tourists to use Cisco’s OpenRoaming services across key locations on the island including the ferries, ports, piers, distilleries and libraries. The trial is testing how handsets can provide a frictionless connected experience for residents and tourists in Orkney. 5G RuralFirst’s public Wi-Fi access network in Orkney is the first of its kind to support OpenRoaming in a live trial environment.

OpenRoaming combines the convenience of roaming with Wi-Fi connectivity. Users’ identities are authenticated once before they can access Wi-Fi without needing to login or register again. By linking access providers such as public venues, retailers, ports and offices, together with identity providers, such as carriers, devices and cloud services, OpenRoaming offers mobile users frictionless Wi-Fi onboarding.

“OpenRoaming will change the way we connect to Wi-Fi and presents new opportunities for providers in a world where we expect high quality ubiquotus broadband access where ever we go,” said Dez O’Connor, Cisco and Project CTO, 5G RuralFirst.

“Customers tell us that Wi-Fi onboarding is a major pain point and there is a perception that it can be unreliable and insecure. OpenRoaming will transform the experience of using Wi-Fi into a seamless and positive one. As well as improving the connected experience for industries like tourism in Orkney, venues providing Wi-Fi to their customers will be able to use it as a means of engaging with them.”

He continued “This trial shows the benefit of seamless connectivity in one of the most a complex, challenging environments. It lays the foundations for many new Wi-Fi solutions as our most innovative customers and partners join us to develop access networks and identity provider services across the UK and the rest of the world”

Around 275,000 tourists visit Orkney every year, making it a significant contributor to the local economy. By making OpenRoaming services available to tourists, the 5G RuralFirst project aims to provide a fully connected experience for the islands’ visitors as well as its residents.

The technology is also being used to support connected tourism by promoting Orkney Origins, an augmented reality application developed as part of 5G RuralFirst. The app provides engaging, digital tour guides of Orkney’s historic and picturesque sites via tourists’ smart devices, at access points. Tourists are able to download the app on the spot through OpenRoaming, rather than in advance of arriving, and be guided by local, digital avatars, creating a more memorable tourist experience and narrating the unique history of the Orkney Islands.