The environmental benefits of 5G

| 28th August 2019
Scotland - 5G promises potential for rural areas

A rural area in Scotland
Enhancing 4G and 5G connectivity could lead to substantial economic, social and environmental benefits in Scotland, according to new analysis.

Uses of 5G technology include applications that monitor the health of salmon, and soil analysis using drones to reduce the amount of fertiliser used.

Upgraded connectivity through 4G and 5G could reduce energy consumption and costs, improve transport integration and boost jobs in remote rural areas, according to a report by analysts.

The report, by the Scottish Futures Trust (SFT), states that if Scotland capitalises on opportunities presented by 4G and 5G, Scotland’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) could increase by £17bn in just over 15 years, and that annual tax revenues could rise £5.7bn from 3,000 new businesses employing 160,000 more people.

The continuous connectivity gained through 5G networks – which are more reliable, faster and can accommodate more devices or sensors – could provide localised flood warning systems using 5G-connected sensors to measure river-level changes, and use smart, integrated energy grids to reduce energy consumption and costs, the report states.

Efficiency gains

The networks could support Scotland’s carbon reduction targets by allowing public bodies to use smart lighting, smart heating and smart electric vehicles charging hubs, according to the analysts from Deloitte, who carried out the research on behalf of the SFT. Sensors on street lights could detect air pollution and monitor congestion, they added.

Other uses of 5G technology have the potential to make Scotland’s rural economy more sustainable in the long-term, for example, through applications that monitor the health of salmon, and soil analysis using drones to reduce the amount of fertiliser used.

The Scottish government has simultaneously launched a 5G strategy setting out how it wants to embrace the economic benefits from improved 4G and 5G capability. It highlights how the technology will enable new or enhanced connectivity in transport, artificial intelligence (AI), robotics and remote monitoring.

SFT is owned and funded by the Scottish government. A spokesperson stated that there were no potential conflicts of interests in relation to the funding of the report and companies involved with 5G when asked by The Ecologist.

This Author

Catherine Early is a freelance environmental journalist and chief reporter for the Ecologist. She can be found tweeting at @Cat_Early76.

More from this author


The Ecologist has a formidable reputation built on fifty years of investigative journalism and compelling commentary from writers across the world. Now, as we face the compound crises of climate breakdown, biodiversity collapse and social injustice, the need for rigorous, trusted and ethical journalism has never been greater. This is the moment to consolidate, connect and rise to meet the challenges of our changing world. The Ecologist is owned and published by the Resurgence Trust. Support The Resurgence Trust from as little as £1. Thank you. Donate here