i2CAT is to participate in XGain, a research and innovation project seeking to open a new digital era for rural areas in Europe


The i2CAT Foundation has recently joined XGain (Enhancing Competitiveness, Resilience and Sustainability of Remote Farming, Forestry and Rural Areas through Holistic Assessment of Smart XG, Last-mile and Edge Solutions’Gains), a Horizon Europe research and innovation project launched in September 2022 oriented at diminishing urban-rural digital inequalities in Europe by implementing a pioneer ecosystem of technologies. XGain is funded by the European Commission with 4.88 million euros. For the next three years, 17 partners, coming from 12 different countries, will contribute to this project, which represents a high-tech paradigm shift to promote the bridging of the digital gap between urban and rural areas through the deployment of high-speed connectivity in a sustainable, balanced, and inclusive manner.

XGain will deploy, explore and assess digital connectivity options by applying a range of technological solutions to a wide spectrum of geographical locations and sectors. i2CAT, besides being the technical manager of the project, will contribute with several additional roles:

  • First, the centre will lead the Catalan pilot to be deployed in the 5G-enabled Mora la Nova testbed. The 5G technologies (5G NR, MEC, Slicing) will support the operation of Drones for training and other purposes, for example, identifying crop needs (e.g., watering, fertilization, pest control) and preventing natural disasters such as wildfires via real-time surveillance. Further, the other technologies available in the testbed, like millimetre wave wireless backhauling, will be evaluated and will form part of the stocktaking necessary to develop the knowledge facilitation tool.
  • Second, i2CAT will partake in the technical discussions around radio access technologies, edge computing and service orchestration.
  • Third, i2CAT will lead the design process of the knowledge facilitation tool.
  • Fourth, i2CAT will elaborate a data management plan and use previous experience with local governance and interactions with key stakeholders in rural environments as guidelines for other pilots on establishing key relationships among stakeholders in rural areas.

“For mobile network operators, there is often no clear business case for the deployments in rural areas, contrary to urban areas. This can be associated with low population density and the sparse presence of use cases that rely on novel technologies. Often, mobile network operators only deploy if they are obliged by public service contracts or under the pressure of the local administrations. i2CAT contributes to closing this digital gap by evaluating cost-efficient technologies that can serve as alternatives to costly infrastructure setups, such as using wireless backhauling technologies instead of fibre deployments. Further, cost, energy efficiency, and sustainable solutions are evaluated for the radio access connectivity: for example, the shared use of base stations or passive equipment, fixed wireless access for remote 5G connectivity, etc. All these evaluations are accompanied by discussions with key stakeholders, such as mobile network operators or local administrations”, explains August Betzler, researcher of the Mobile Wireless Internet (MWI) area in i2CAT.

The XGain overall project aims to deliver a Knowledge Facilitation Tool, facilitating business model development through the selection of an ecosystem of technologies that, ultimately, could help to increase systemic resilience and energy efficiency, contribute to climate mitigation and reduce the digital divides between different types of citizens, farms, sectors and regions.

Find out more here!