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Vodafone UK to Boost Rural 4G Mobile Cover via Church Towers

Thursday, Jul 27th, 2023 (2:11 pm) - Score 1,936
Vodafone-4G-Small-Cell-on-Top-of-England-Church

Mobile operator Vodafone has revealed that they’re working with the Church of England, and using Open Radio Access Network (OpenRAN) technology, to help extend 4G mobile (mobile broadband) into remote rural communities by deploying small base stations on top of 11 church bell towers across the country.

Two of the first locations include the Blessed Virgin Mary Church in Brompton Regis, Somerset (England), and St Michael’s & All Angels in Ewyas Harold, Herefordshire, with a further nine, located across Dorset, Essex, Norfolk and Wiltshire, going live in the coming months.

Andrea Dona, Network and Development Director, Vodafone UK, said: “Churches are typically very tall, on high ground, and close to the community we’re trying to connect. This makes them the perfect place to install a mobile site, and now we’ve developed technology that’s small enough not to spoil the appearance of the church. Our aim is to use this cutting-edge technology to improve mobile coverage in as many rural locations as possible. This is an important step in ensuring rural communities can enjoy all the benefits of mobile connectivity.”

The new cell sites, which are also being supported by mobile coverage service partner Net CS, involve the deployment of “well-hidden boxes” (small cells) that have a 500-metre coverage radius. You can see a short video of this work below.

We should point out that the idea of deploying mobile and fixed wireless broadband kit on top of church spires/towers is nothing new and has been done many times before. In fact, the Church of England reached a related agreement with Cornerstone, the network sharing division of Vodafone UK and O2, all the way back in 2019 (here).

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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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Comments
14 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Lucian says:

    The Church literally bringing the light to the people. Nice stuff! 🙂

  2. Avatar photo Sam P says:

    There are some things that should just be left alone. Religious or not, please leave the beautiful old buildings to be, well, beautiful!

    1. Avatar photo Just a thought says:

      If the box is as discrete as shown and the Church gains some wayleave income it will help keep the old building looking as good as it does.

    2. Avatar photo Consider says:

      It’s a tiny box, not a huge dildo

    3. Avatar photo Jim says:

      I’m sure if the church didn’t want it, they could say no. No one is forcing this.

    4. Avatar photo Ivor says:

      I would imagine a lot of the churches are listed anyway, so it’s not as if they’re going to bolt a mast to the roof. It’ll be done sympathetically.

      the CofE are lumped with the maintenance costs of all these old buildings anyway, so if they can get a few quid back in rental income then they should be encouraged to take it.

    5. Avatar photo Optimist says:

      Wispire has been doing this for over a decade. The heavens haven’t fallen.

    6. Avatar photo Sam P says:

      I didn’t actually see the video, yeah that’s not so bad. I was expecting it to be full sized lol

    7. Avatar photo Ad47uk says:

      A local company did it a few years ago with a wireless broadband service, they had one on our cathedral, I used it for a couple of years, but sadly they could not cope with the amount of users. They also had antennas on churches in the sticks. Great idea and gave me a better speed than what I had with ADSL at the time.
      Would have stuck with them if they could have coped. then FTTC came and that was the end of them.
      I still have the thing on my roof.

      As others have said, it is extra money for churches

  3. Avatar photo Jonathan Lewis says:

    We tried to site a FWA head end on our local church tower in the adjacent village as there was a decent BT Ultrafast service close by. Sadly before we could even consider it we had to pay a £3.5K initial survey fee and it put the kybosh on it from the start due to the additional hops we would need for the rest of the build. It didn’t feel particularly community-spirited when the church (and probably more importantly the church warden) were sited in an Ultrafast island. Our hamlet 1.5Km away has 1.5Mb/s flaky aluminium Openreach lines with zero chance of any upgrade ….

    1. Avatar photo Jon says:

      Get starlink and share it between neighbours

  4. Avatar photo Mobilebroadband says:

    Always surprises me that Vodafone are doing this when their coverage all around this site is so much worse than ee and even three. Staggering how poor Vodafone is rurally still. Guess they are hoping the three merger will fix this…

  5. Avatar photo Bogmonster says:

    I would welcome this where I live as we have very poor coverage. I can just get Vfe 4G outdoors or hanging out an upstairs window. No 2G. Nothing from any other network. I can get a reasonably reliable 3G signal but not for much longer as that is being turned off. I guess we will see what happens when 3G is turned off, hopefully the existing 4G will be able to step up but without some reconfiguration I am doubtful.

    This is compounded by the mess that is WIFI calling. I would rather go with an MVNO but my Pixel phone is poorly supported by many. My wife’s older pixel is even worse.

    In general Vodafone has the best covereage around here and I am a member of a serach and rescue team that uses an SMS based system (SARCALL) for callouts. The most likely time of callouts is night where my phone is on my bedside table. I expect I will switch to VOXI for monthly contracts and its functioning Pixel WIFI calling support (currently on Lebara that don’t have functioning WIFI calling on Pixel phones), and my wife will switch to 1P Mobile for WIFI calling support on her old Pixel phone…

    I am not against the switch off of 3G, it has to happen, but there are still too many places with coverage gaps that need to be filled. Likewise, WIFI calling is still too randomly supported on Android handsets.

    Thankfully I have a reliable FTTH service so WIFI calling is viable, even if it means finding operators that support WIFI calling on our Pixel handsets.

    I am sure in time that gaps caused by switching off 3G will be filled but that will take time. I am less sure that the WIFI calling lottery is ever going to be fixed.

    1. Avatar photo Bogmonster says:

      As an afterthought, it would have been useful if OFCOM could have applied regulatory pressure to assist in resolving all the WIFI calling nonsence before the 3G turnoff…

Comments are closed

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