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Vodafone Uses Mini Base Stations To Boost 4G In UK Cities

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Vodafone and Ericsson radio units can be carried in a briefcase, allowing network speed and quality to be improved much quicker

Vodafone is using ‘mini base stations’ and carrier aggregation to increase the capacity and speed of its 4G network, claiming the rollout will allow it to improve its service much more rapidly than conventional radio equipment.

The Ericsson radio units are half the size and weight, offer three times the capacity and are more energy efficient. The systems can also be housed in a briefcase-sized unit, allowing engineers to carry the equipment up staircases.

At present, a crane is used to deliver cellular sites to the roof, increasing the cost and complexity of network building. The first units have been deployed in Southwark and will be used in other urban areas too.

Vodafone 4G

oxford street londonVodafone and Ericsson are also working on three-way carrier aggregation, combining the operator’s 800MHz, 1.8GHz and 2.6GHz spectrum to deliver speeds of up to 240Mbps. The service, marketed as ‘4G+’ should offer better voice quality in high density areas too.

“We continue to look at new and innovative ways of providing improved mobile coverage in order to meet our customers’ soaring demand for mobile data and video while minimising disruption to the general public and improving the aesthetics of the surrounding area,” said Vodafone UK CEO Jorge Fernandes.

“We are delighted to be partnering with Ericsson, one of our key network suppliers, on this project and look forward to further engaging with local councils and Government to look at ways of reducing red tape around site planning for mobile mast installations.”

The operator has long been a critic of planning rules and says it has been hamstrung in its efforts to improve network coverage and quality because of a lack of access to sites and overcomplicated regulations. Changes to the Electronic Communications Code (ECC), could help alleviate some of these concerns.

According to tests by independent research firm RootMetrics, Vodafone has the joint second best network in London with O2 and Three, behind EE. Vodafone recorded an 11.4Mbps median download speed and 8.4Mbps upload. Nationally, Vodafone ranks behind both EE and Three, although it has the second fastest.

Vodafone has 7 million UK 4G customers and claims to have 91 percent coverage.

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