Vodafone Reveals First Rural Communities To Benefit From Femtocell Scheme

Vodafone has announced the first 30 locations to benefit from its Rural Open Sure Signal initiative, which provides rural communities with better mobile coverage through femtocell technology.

The operator has been trialling Sure Signal, which provides a 3G signal by connecting to a home broadband network, in 12 locations across the country and the first batch of the scheme includes communities from all four countries of the UK, including Shetland and Snowdonia.

Rural Open Sure Signal

“Mobile connectivity is an essential service for communities and businesses to thrive in today’s digital world and support local economies,” says Jeroen Hoencamp, Vodafone UK CEO. “As part of the Rural Open Sure Signal programme, we are committed to investing in our network, using innovative technologies such as Sure Signal to provide access even in remote locations where it is otherwise almost impossible to reach.”

Minchinhampton in Gloucestershire has been named as the “first” village to receive the upgrade but locations range from Shetland to Snowdonia and Vodafone eventually plans to connect 100 communities.

The Cotswold market community has traditionally suffered from poor signal due to its positioning on a remote hilltop, but local leaders who have supported the village’s application say it will transform the lives of residents and boost local businesses.

“This scheme will be a huge benefit to the local community, helping businesses to connect with their customers and allowing people to stay in touch with their family and friends,” claims Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, MP, Cotswolds.

Rural broadband

The other 29 communities are St. Andrews (Orkney), Isle of Luing (Argyll), Seil & Easdale (Argyll ), Killeter (Castlederg, Co Tyrone), Pomeroy (Co Tyrone), Bryneglwys (Denbignshire), Corris (Gwynedd), Hillington (Norfolk), High Kelling (Norfolk), Throverton (Devon), Upper Sheringham (Norfolk), Bridgerule (Devon), Shobrooke (Devon), Borrowdale (Cumbria), Chesil Bank (Dorset), Coln St Aldwyns (Gloucestershire), Easton (Itchen Valley, Hampshire), Bramdean (Hampshire), Moylegrove (Pembrokeshire), Blackerstone (Berwickshire), Broad Chalk (Wiltshire), Letcombe Regis (Oxfordshire), Childrey (Oxfordshire), Newborough (Staffordshire), Spring Grove (Somerset), Middleton-in-Teesdale (Durham), Blakeney (Norfolk), Caldbeck (Cumbria), and East Garston (Berkshire).

Vodafone has pledged to invest £1 billion in its UK network over a 12 month period and promises to cover 98 percent of the UK with 2G, 3G or 4G connectivity. However it opposes a government plan for a ‘national roaming network’ that would allow mobile users in rural areas to access any network if they cannot receive a signal from its provider.

“As Vodafone and the other UK mobile operators have told the Government directly on a number of occasions, national roaming will not provide the people of the UK with better quality voice and mobile internet coverage,” the operator told TechWeekEurope last week. “In fact, it would make coverage and quality significantly worse from the customer’s perspective, with a much higher risk of dropped calls, lower battery life and negative impact on services such as voicemail.”

“We and the other operators have already explained to the Government that national roaming across the UK is fundamentally different to international roaming. It would be technically far more complex, slow to implement and would cause serious problems with network resilience.”

Recent tests by Opensignal indicate that although Vodafone customers are likely to be able to receive a 3G or 4G signal just 64.7 percent of the time, they are the least likely to be without any signal at all at 4.97 percent.

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Steve McCaskill

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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