#ROSS100 is the name of our mission to bring reliable coverage to scores of not-spots around the UK. And, as we recently found out, the arrival of mobile signal can make a huge difference...

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Rural Open Sure Signal 100 (#ROSS100) is our pioneering project which aims to bring reliable 3G mobile signal to 100 not-spots around the UK. With the communities well on the way to being chosen and with some work already underway, we’ve been catching up with a few people who’ve already felt the benefit of newfound connectivity.

In January we hosted a get together at the Houses of Parliament for local MPs, village champions and business owners from our original ROSS pilot programme of 12 communities. So how has Rural Open Sure Signal changed their lives? In more ways than one…

Helping the people that matter

“I’m delighted with this project,” said MP for Newbury Richard Benyon as he addressed those in attendance. “It really shows what technology can deliver for people in remote areas.”

With Newbury being the home of our network, you’d expect that the town would have strong 4G signal, but what you might not know is that there are a couple of villages in the surrounding area that, up until recently, have been hard for any network to reach: “I have a village in the Lambourn Valley in my constituency called East Garston,” Richard explained, “which, despite being only a few miles from Vodafone’s world headquarters, was in a not-spot. But thanks to the ROSS project it now has mobile signal.’

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“This is a great example of how to work with local parish council to find a solution which has immeasurably helped the 500 people who live in that area.”

If you live in an area with great coverage, it’s difficult to imagine not being able to use a mobile phone wherever you go, and even harder to imagine the sheer enormity of change that suddenly having signal can make. Richard explained:

“I’m delighted with this project. It really shows what technology can deliver for people in remote areas.”

“You may well be familiar with the Lambourn Valley because of its association with the racing industry, but it’s also a farming area. The combination of those two very hazardous industries is actually a really important story here, because ROSS has delivered a safety solution. There may be fewer people who work in agriculture now, but it still can a dangerous profession, and if people get injured they need to get help. And obviously in the racing industry there are accidents too.

“In constituencies much more remote than mine, like the outer isles and others that are represented here, this is an important factor. To be able to get a mobile signal does give a huge amount of security to people who run these businesses, the people who work in them, and the people who are trying to set up and run any businesses in rural areas.”

And as a business owner in Cranborne, Dorset – one of our other 12 pilot ROSS villages, Jane Gould agreed…

Transforming the way we live’

“We’d be getting people from London who had never gone a day without signal,” said Jane, owner of the Inn at Cranborne. “So I think it’s fantastic; having signal has definitely helped my business. I used to have complaints every week from people who came to stay and didn’t have mobile reception. Now that there’s signal there’s been a shift: people think it’s a great solution and want to be on Vodafone to make use of it!”

But while Jane may notice a big difference, she says the measure of the project’s success is in how quickly the rest of the village has become so blasé about having 3G in their pockets…

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“There’ve been a few really interesting phases,” she said. “There was the phase before Vodafone, where the fact that we didn’t have signal was such a topical conversation, particularly for local businesses. And then all of a sudden we moved into a phase where everyone was talking about it even more because suddenly we got mobile signal, and now we’ve entered a third phase where we’re actually taking it for granted because we’ve got signal all the time. And I think that’s when you’ve hit success: when people stop talking about it because it’s just there.”

Village champion – the man who helped bring ROSS to Cranborne in the first place – David Blake, agreed:

“People have almost stopped talking about it now – it’s just a normal part of how we live.” But that’s not to say that having reliable 3G coverage isn’t appreciated. “People can find their way now, the delivery drivers can get to you if they’re lost, for instance. That used to be a real issue, since people would get to the village but not know where exactly in the village you were and couldn’t contact you.

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“But the major benefit is to the 400 people living and working in the village,” he said in closing. “Because we have a middle school, a primary school, a doctor’s surgery and all those things, being contactable by mobile is really transforming the way we live.”

More on ROSS100: We’ll have much more on the progress of #ROSS100 really soon, so stay tuned. In the meantime, you can find out loads more about how the technology works right here.