#ROSS100, the next phase of our Rural Open Sure Signal trial, is looking for new applicants right now. but what can it do for you? Here's Winterslow's story...

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Heard the news? We’re on the hunt for 100 rural communities around the UK that are in need of better mobile coverage. Why? Because with our pioneering Rural Open Sure Signal technology, we can bring 3G coverage to areas that have historically proved difficult to reach.

 

innConnecting Cranborne

How do you bring mobile signal to a place where there is none? Easy: all you need is a bit of tech wizardry and the help of the local community…
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And what’s more, we know it works; we’ve already trialled it in 12 villages in the UK. Winterslow in Wiltshire was one of the initial batch of communities to feel the benefit of the technology, so to find out how it’s made a difference Vodafone Social has caught up with the village’s community champion, Gordon Verity.

On our radar

gordon verity“I don’t think people appreciate the many problems that arise when mobile phone coverage is absent,” Gordon says of Winterslow’s history of poor reception. “Obviously, others can’t contact you on your mobile phone, but they’re often not aware that you’re in a black spot, and assume you’re just not bothering to switch it on! I’ve also had several instances of using my landline where an automatic system would text me a code (which you have to respond to within a few minutes) yet I’ve not been able to receive it.

“Mobile communication is the primary method nowadays, not landlines. There’s also the safety aspect: mothers not being able to contact children, ambulances needing directions, first responders being out of contact, and many more.”

“At one point I was asked to provide justification that mobile coverage was required in the village. A petition was raised, and signed by over 200 people.”

“In November 2011, Vodafone announced that it had developed a new technology called Open Sure Signal…”

Clearly, something had to be done. Gordon had been campaigning to get better signal in Winterslow for several years, but it wasn’t until the advent of our Open Sure Signal technology that we were able to help. Having already been on Vodafone’s radar, Gordon and Wiltshire’s newly elected MP John Glen were keen to apply.

“In November 2011, Vodafone announced that it had developed a new technology called Open Femto (or Open Sure Signal) which would bring 3G signal to rural communities that currently have no mobile coverage at all. It operates by connecting very small boxes to fixed broadband connections, and is specifically designed to provide coverage to a targeted geographical location where installing conventional masts would be uneconomic and inappropriate in planning terms.

“Vodafone announced its intention to pilot this technology in 12 communities around the country,” Gordon tells us, “and thanks to MP John Glen we were one of the first to be selected. I met Vodafone’s development team in the village and four possible sites were chosen for the trial: two pubs, the village hall and one private house.

Feeling the difference

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“The four boxes went live early in 2013,” Gordon explains, “covering the areas along the main road through the village and down to Bentley Wood. With the system fully up and running we’ve been delighted that our contact with the outside world has been brought up to the 21st century.

“The people who live in the village who now have mobile coverage are delighted with it, and – as many people have changed their phone contract to Vodafone – I think there would be uproar if it was ever shut down.

When you go from no signal to 3G, people are bound to notice a big difference in the way they live their lives, how they communicate and stay connected. So, has much changed in Winterslow? As we found out, the answer is a resounding yes.

“Mothers can now be contacted by the pre-school if there is a problem with their child…”

“Mothers can now be contacted by the pre-school if there is a problem with their child,” says Gordon. “The mobile library can get online. Delivery drivers can phone in their arrival time or ask for directions without having to go back to the main road. There are a high proportion of elderly people in the village and their carers can now get directions. A recent purchase of a house in the village was conditional on mobile coverage being present, as the wife worked from home.

“And for me personally, mobile signal means I can now contact my wife when she is down at the stables with her horse. Likewise, she can be contacted by the farrier when at the stable without having to wait at home for his call.”

All in all, our Rural Open Sure Signal trial has gone down a storm in Winterslow – making the little things happen that a lot of us take for granted. We’ll be taking a look at some of the other villages over the next few weeks, but in the mean time you can check out our stories from Cranborne and East Garston here.

Help your community get connected… If you live in a rural community with poor signal, you could qualify to take part in our #ROSS100 second stage trial. To apply, head to vodafone.co.uk/rural