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Vodafone Uses Fixed Lines to Help 100 UK Rural Areas Get 3G Mobile

Tuesday, Jul 22nd, 2014 (2:06 pm) - Score 1,164

Mobile operator Vodafone has announced that it will shortly begin expanding the use of their Open Sure Signal (Femtocell) technology in order to make 3G based Mobile Broadband and voice calling services available in up to 100 new rural communities across the United Kingdom.

The Sure Signal technology is able to make use of an existing fixed line broadband connection to link with Vodafone’s network and this can be used to boost either indoor or outdoor mobile coverage. In this instance we’re talking about the outdoor variety, which is often cheaper than building a new mobile mast.

The units themselves act like small routers and can be installed on any number of buildings including village halls, pubs, shops, telegraph poles, payphones and even homes to ensure widespread mobile coverage. At the end of 2011 Vodafone announced a trial of their outdoor Rural Open Sure Signal solution (here), which once again utilised the capacity from existing fixed lines in order to help supply and relay a 3G service to around 12 rural villages (e.g. Walls in the Shetland Islands and Newton St Cyres in Devon).

Now Vodafone has announced that this will be expanded to nearly 100 additional villages and hamlets in areas where mobile reception is currently poor and the prospect of building a new mast and or dedicated capacity supply unlikely (i.e. too expensive / difficult). As before the operator has already begun calling on interested communities to register their interest.

Jeroen Hoencamp, Vodafone UK CEO, said:

This is an opportunity for people to make a real difference to their community and to be part of our commitment to close the digital divide between rural and urban areas. Bringing mobile coverage and mobile internet to rural areas gives communities a real boost – both economically and socially. I’m looking forward to seeing the successful communities light up and start to experience the benefits mobile connectivity will bring to each and every community involved.”

Ed Vaizey, Communications Minister, added:

Mobile coverage can make a huge difference particularly to more rural and isolated communities. Vodafone’s Open Sure Signal technology offers communities the chance to transform their lives by bringing them technology many of us take for granted. I urge people to work together with their MPs to take this opportunity and bring mobile coverage to their homes.”

Applications for the expanded Rural Open Sure Signal programme close on 14th October 2014 and it’s hoped that the first communities will then be connected by the end of 2014. Separately Vodafone, much like most of the other Mobile Network Operators (MNO), have also pledged to provide coverage using 2G, 3G or 4G services to 98% of the UK population by the end of 2015 (or 2017 at the very latest). We note that EE hopes to achieve this feat even sooner than that.

However it’s important to remember that such solutions, while very innovative, can still be limited by the quality of existing local links (fixed lines) and are thus not going to work for everybody. On the other hand there are rural areas that do have good fixed line connections, albeit poor mobile coverage, and these are the ones most likely to benefit from Vodafone’s project.

The original 12 communities were:
o East Garston (West Berkshire)
o Winterslow (Wiltshire)
o Newcastleton (Scottish Borders)
o Ewyas Harold (Herefordshire)
o Pendine (South Wales)
o Walls (Shetland)
o Witherslack (Cumbria)
o Caldbeck (Cumbria)
o Newton St Cyres (Devon)
o Cranborne (Dorset)
o Kinlochard (Stirling)
o Blakeney (Norfolk)

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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