Last week (17 February), 5G Wales Unlocked — the innovation project demonstrating the opportunities for 5G in rural and valleys communities in Wales — launched a live 5G service which includes coverage of Cadw’s Raglan Castle in Monmouthshire.
One of the first live 5G trials in rural Wales, the 5G network, provided by BT, will power a series of exciting projects across Monmouthshire and Blaenau Gwent — showcasing the potential for 5G to transform rural businesses and services across tourism, education, transport and farming.
At Raglan Castle, the 5G network is bringing Welsh history to life with Augmented Reality (AR) experiences — created by 5G Wales Unlocked partner, Jam Creative Studios. Visitors can now collect a device from the Visitor Centre to become immersed in the castle’s history.
As they explore, visitors can: see the castle as it would have looked before it was ruined in the English Civil War; take on the role of the parliamentarians — firing cannons at the castle’s defences during the Siege of Raglan; take part in a virtual game of bowls with King Charles I on the bowling green — recreating a historical event that took place in 1645 and see the magnificent Fountain Court recreated all around them.
Deputy Minister for Arts and Sport, Dawn Bowden MS, said: “Supporting Wales’ tourism and arts is a key commitment in our Programme for Government and is integral to making our cities, towns and villages even better places in which to live and work.
“This exciting project demonstrates the potential of new technologies to make Wales a better-connected nation and to create inclusive opportunities for people to enjoy and preserve our rich history.”
David Penberthy, Head of Interpretation at Cadw, said: “Raglan Castle is a much-loved site with considerable historic importance and we’re delighted to be working with 5G Wales Unlocked to find new ways for visitors to engage with its fascinating history.
“We expect the games to be very popular, and invite both new and returning visitors of all ages to come and experience it for themselves.”
Libby Warwick, Senior Producer at Jam Creative Studios, said: “We are very excited to be launching these new AR games with the benefits of a 5G network. The 5G connectivity is enabling us to create even more exciting, immersive experiences at rural heritage sites — and create larger and more detailed virtual content, placed accurately into the environment for visitors to explore and interact with.”
Nick Speed, BT Group Director in Wales, said: “5G is a crucial step in the preparation for a huge growth in demand for bandwidth-hungry applications such as high definition 4K content streaming, augmented and virtual reality, and high-quality video conferencing.
“This is a pioneering chance to demonstrate the potential of 5G in a rural setting. Tourism is an important sector for Wales, so it’s also a real opportunity to explore how this latest technology could be used to innovate and enhance the offer to visitors. Connected, smart technology like this has the potential to help rural economies grow and encourage young people to stay in these areas.”
Cllr Sara Jones, Deputy Leader Monmouthshire County Council, said: “For rural counties like Monmouthshire, increased connectivity will help local communities and businesses. From a rural business perspective, I’ve been speaking to local farmers who describe how 5G could potentially transform their businesses.
“The innovative solution which has been installed in Raglan Castle is tremendous — local people and visitors will be inspired by this technology which brings this beautiful, historic place to life. For education, the opportunities to inspire the imaginations of learners is fantastic. Projects like this which explore the benefits to rural communities have potential for roll out across the whole of Wales. I am proud of Monmouthshire’s role in this.”
As a scheduled ancient monument, Raglan Castle faces potential safety and preservation challenges — and 5G Wales Unlocked partner, UtterBerry, has developed and installed a network of smart sensors across the site to help tackle these.
The sensors detect and monitor changes in factors like land movement, structural integrity in the castle towers, temperature, humidity, wind speed and waste tank levels — data which will help Cadw develop a detailed understanding of the risks to prevent and minimise them and preserve the site for generations to come.
Heba Bevan OBE, CEO of UtterBerry, said: “As a site which is exposed to the elements, Raglan Castle is subject to environmental degradation, including land movement over time, wind, rain, snow and wildlife.
“We’re therefore working closely with Welsh Government and DCMS to provide Cadw with vast, rich data that provides a far greater understanding of the site and enables proactive preservation measures to be taken — all of which is possible now that Raglan Castle has full connectivity to 5G.”