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By: MarkJ - 3 November, 2011 (6:10 AM)
3g mobile broadbandvodafone uk mobile broadbandMobile operator Vodafone has called for 12 rural communities across the UK to come and take part in trials of its latest femtocell based technology, which could boost their coverage of Mobile Broadband (3G) services into rural towns and villages.

Femtocells technology has been around for a few years now but until recently it was only used for indoor purposes (e.g. Sure Signal). The basic principal is that Femtocells can improve local mobile 3G voice and data signals by harnessing an existing fixed line broadband ISP connection.

The new 'Open Femto' solution, which will build on Vodafone, BT and Alcatel-Lucent's continuing pilot programme in the village of East Garston (West Berkshire), takes that a step further by performing the same task over a wider outdoor area.

Guy Laurence, CEO of Vodafone UK, said:

"Hundreds of thousands of people across the country use Vodafone Sure Signal every day to boost their 3G signal at home. Now we are extending this groundbreaking femtocell technology to make a real difference to rural communities.

Bringing mobile coverage and the benefits of the mobile internet to rural areas involves not just us, but local people, politicians and other infrastructure players all working together. We are confident that everyone will step up and help give rural communities a real boost and look forward to extending our trial."

However the operator notes that deploying such connectivity into rural areas will involve a partnership between the local community, central and local Government, politicians and other infrastructure providers.

Communications Minister, Ed Vaizey, added:

"Bringing mobile coverage to communities can make a huge difference to people's lives. That is why the Government has pledged £150m to extending mobile coverage. It is good to see Vodafone looking for innovative ways to bring mobile coverage to rural areas. Anything that increases mobile coverage is to be welcomed. I urge areas without mobile coverage to get involved and see if this trial is suitable for them."

The Open Femto devices themselves are typically sited in local payphones, although Vodafone hopes to improve their coverage by mounting them on top of BT's telegraph poles. Obviously this method wouldn't be a solution for the most isolated communities but it could help infill rural locations where good fixed line broadband is available to some but not all.

Vodafone hopes to commence its new trials "early in 2012", although this will depend upon the response they receive from rural communities. One potential downside is that, at present, it would only benefit Vodafone subscribers. Hard luck if you're on one of the other four operators.
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