Vodafone pushing rural 3G cause with 'open femtos'


Vodafone is to ask 12 communities across the UK to try out outdoor femtocell technology to boost 3G coverage.

The communications provider announced an extension of its trial in the West Berkshire village of East Garston, which sought to improve connectivity as part of a project with BT.

Vodafone's announcement comes a day after Ofcom revealed 27 per cent of UK premises still can't access 3G, along with 87 per cent of the UK's total landmass.

Anything that increases mobile coverage is to be welcomed.

"Bringing mobile coverage to communities can make a huge difference to people's lives," said communications minister Ed Vaizey.

"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."

Trials will commence in the first half of 2012 and will use 'open-femto' technology, which effectively places femtocells outdoors.

In East Garston, Vodafone installed open-femtos in payphones, the local pub, the social club, the post office and outside the village hall. Soon, femtocells will be installed on Openreach's telephone poles.

Similar work will soon go ahead in the additional 12 trial areas

Vodafone has been working with Alcatel-Lucent in exploring ways to take its femtocell technology commercially known as Vodafone Sure Signal into areas where 3G connectivity is poor.

Local communities should lobby their MPs to be part of the trial, Vodafone told IT Pro. However, the mobile giant will be doing some work to determine which areas are worthy.

"We will be writing this week to MPs that have shown an interest in coverage and broadband roll out in rural areas asking them to help us draw up a list of possible candidates with the help of local communities," a spokesperson said.

"We will also be talking to Government to see how the BDUK projects could provide possible candidates. Obviously, we need 'not-spot' areas of no coverage but with broadband connectivity and suitable structures to locate the equipment and power. We should also look at a suitable spread of demographics to test usage."

Tom Brewster

Tom Brewster is currently an associate editor at Forbes and an award-winning journalist who covers cyber security, surveillance, and privacy. Starting his career at ITPro as a staff writer and working up to a senior staff writer role, Tom has been covering the tech industry for more than ten years and is considered one of the leading journalists in his specialism.

He is a proud alum of the University of Sheffield where he secured an undergraduate degree in English Literature before undertaking a certification from General Assembly in web development.