Buttermere HDD Trials

Residents and visitors to Buttermere will be delighted to discover that mobile phone coverage is now available throughout the Buttermere valley, extending up to the Honister Slate Mine. This significant development, funded by the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) under the Open Networks Eco-system competition, has been made possible by a dedicated consortium. The primary goal of this initiative is to enhance communication for the Cockermouth and Keswick Mountain Rescue Teams (MRTs), enabling them to improve their operations and respond more effectively to emergencies.

The consortium comprises project partners from the REACH and 5GDRIVE projects, including Cybermoor 5G Services, Safenetics, Keswick and Cockermouth Mountain Rescue groups, Virgin Media O2, and Wavemobile.

Visitors familiar with Buttermere are aware that despite its low resident population, the influx of tourists during peak seasons places unusual demands on local infrastructure. Many may have been surprised to find the area previously lacked mobile coverage. Drawing on insights from earlier DSIT-funded projects, such as the MANY project, the consortium swiftly and efficiently installed the small cells without requiring a fibre backhaul. Although fibre internet installation is scheduled for later in 2024, the team successfully deployed three StarLink devices to provide the necessary backhaul to the cellXica small cells.

Three cellXica small cells have been strategically installed across the Buttermere valley, located at Gatesgarth Farm, The Bridge Hotel, and Honister Slate Mine. These installations have seen substantial network traffic, with The Bridge Hotel recording 48,000 unique devices, Honister 22,000, and Gatesgarth 19,000. This data underscores the significant demand for connectivity in rural areas.

Looking ahead to the summer of 2024, the consortium plans to conduct trials during high-density demand events. These trials aim to optimise the use of mobile coverage for both the public and MRT services, ultimately enhancing the ability to save lives in the valley.