Vodafone and Alcatel-Lucent extend rural coverage trial


Vodafone and Alcatel-Lucent looking for 12 new locations for pilot which uses femtocells to improve rural network coverage

Vodafone is working with Alcatel-Lucent to trial delivering improved rural mobile coverage on Vodafone using femtocell technology.

The partners are looking for 12 more communities in which to test the technology, having launched first pilot programme in East Garston in West Berkshire in Spring this year. The 12 new pilots will begin in early 2012.

Vodafone currently offers customers its Vodafone Sure Signal (pictured) home femtocell, costing £50 for users on contracts of under £40 per month, which can be installed in the home to improve mobile coverage by offloading mobile connections on to fixed broadband.

These devices are “closed” so that only authorised users can take advantage of the signal, however the trials with Alcatel-Lucent Vodafone use “open” femtocells that any Vodafone customer can use.

Vodafone has been working with BT in East Garston to place the femtocells in phone boxes and is set to begin siting them on BT Openreach’s telephone poles. The devices used in the pilots could also be installed in public areas such as village halls, post offices and pubs.

Vodafone said that it and Alcatel-Lucent were also planning to test other technology, such as residential broadband, to support the attempts to improve mobile coverage.

Vodafone UK CEO Guy Lawrence 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.”

Last month the government pledged £150m to help improve mobile coverage across the UK.

Communications Minister Ed Vaizey said: 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.”