Vodafone UK is to extend its 3G mobile internet trials to a further 12 regions in the UK as part of a push to boost coverage into rural areas.
Working with BT, the operator is calling for local communities to get involved in public trials to extend the learning from pilot region East Garston to an additional 12 communities and potentially help bring improved mobile coverage to more rural areas, backed by local politicians, communities and the Government.
Vodafone said the extended trials will enable it to explore ways to fill ‘not-spots’ across the UK, recently highlighted by Ofcom as a problem for 3G operators.
The trials will allow Vodafone to test the latest version of its femtocell technology that can provide 3G signals in local areas and see whether the co-operation that it has in East Garston can be replicated elsewhere. Signals are also sited in payphones and will shortly be extended to trialling the mounting of femtocells on Openreach's telephone poles.
Vodafone added it will work with Alcatel-Lucent to experiment with the use of other forms of infrastructure and local residential broadband projects to support rural mobile phone coverage.
The plans have been backed by communications minister Ed Vaizey, who said: ‘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.’
Guy Laurence, CEO of Vodafone UK added: ‘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.’