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:
“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.
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