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BT Openreach Moots Mobile Infill Solution for Isolated UK Rural Areas

Wednesday, Sep 26th, 2012 (7:57 am) - Score 1,134

BTOpenreach has informed mobile operators of its intention to develop a new mobile infill solution that could potentially leverage BT’s existing fixed line network to provide mobile services into parts of the UK that suffer from “non-existent or patchy” coverage. But could it also help fixed line broadband performance?

At this stage Openreach is still being somewhat coy with the details of its already “drafted” product and merely claims to be looking “at opportunities” for such a solution, which requires the group to seek “engagement and feedback … from interested operators” before deciding whether or not to turn it into a commercial product.

It is known that the solution is likely to make use of small cell technology (i.e. cheap and low-powered radio access nodes that only have a very limited range of up to around 200 meters) and a growing interest from government and local communities to resolve mobile “not spots“. The last part is a reference to the £150m Mobile Infrastructure Project, which originally aimed to extend mobile services to “at least 98%” of the United Kingdom by the end of 2017 (currently 95%) before doubts were cast over such a target.

Openreach’s Statement

Openreach is looking at opportunities to support the roll out of mobile coverage to areas of the UK where coverage is either non-existent or patchy, typically more rural areas. In these areas traditional mobile network deployment solutions have proved difficult or uneconomic to provide.”

BT certainly has plenty of options at its disposal and most recently conducted trials of White Space (IEEE 802.22) technology as a solution to delivering faster broadband services into mostly isolated rural areas, although it will no doubt also take a sniff at the forthcoming auction of 4G / LTE compatible radio spectrum (800MHz and 2.6GHz) to see if there’s anything suitable for its purposes.

Some readers will be quick to note out that many of the locations likely to benefit from a mobile infill solution would also include those that are currently underserved by BT’s existing fixed line network, where slower broadband speeds and sometimes even unreliable phone connections can be common.

Crucially this perception might be missing the real trick. If BT can establish a potential market for such a solution, especially among major mobile operators, then that would in-turn make investment in remote rural areas more economically viable. This could provide for a greater incentive to upgrade the local infrastructure. Now it starts to make sense.

Mark-Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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