We're working hard to fill in the UK's signal gaps, and we're tackling the issue with a variety of amazingly high-tech projects. Here's the very latest...
Do you live in rural Britain? You may have heard that we’re on a mission to bring coverage to more people in rural parts of the country than ever before so we thought it was high time we revisited our key coverage projects to give you an update.
Between our own Rural Open Sure Signal (ROSS100) initiative and our work on the UK government’s Mobile Infrastructure Project (MIP), we’re looking at more ways to bring reliable signal to rural customers.
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Recently, we caught up with Dr Rob Matthews, Vodafone’s foremost expert on all things network, to talk about the latest in our ROSS100 rollout. You can read all about that here, but while we had his ear, we thought we’d ask about the shape of network developments on the whole. Namely: where are we at, and where are we heading?
ROSS100 steps up a gear
“We’ve spent the last 6-12 months doing the groundwork on a huge number of villages across the country,” says Rob on our ROSS100 progress, “to find out how ready they are for us to come in and do what we have to do to give them signal.”
With much of the country enjoying year round reliable signal, it’s easy to assume that bringing mobile reception and data to the remaining places would be a piece of cake. But that’s unfortunately not the case. That’s why we have to rely on clever tech like ROSS, but even that can be fraught with challenges:
“About 30% of villages in our list of 100 didn’t have quick enough BT broadband to be able to reliably power our ROSS units,” Rob explains. “We normally work with BT solely on providing broadband, but we also found out that there are third party providers coming forward and filling that gap, so we’ve had to figure out how do we get our kit to communicate with these niche providers technology, and we’re starting to roll that out now.”
That said, a lot of the initial bumps and hurdles are now behind us, which means that the ROSS100 rollout can really step up a gear. We’ve now got five communities live: Minchinhampton, Broad Chalke, Chillaton, Lifton and Loggerheads (Country Park, North Wales), with loads more on the way. Great news if you live in one of the rural areas that requested to take part:
“We’ve got a very ambitious target for rolling out sites at a rate of one or two a week until March 2016. We’re going to have to ramp things up a bit from here, but we’ve already done a lot of the ground work of surveying villages, finding out where the best locations are, making sure the speeds are quick enough and undertaking designs. We’ve also done some testing with fibre to make sure the superfast speeds work with the ROSS units, and now we’re moving into the implementation phase.
“We’ve made a very firm commitment that we want to bring 98% population coverage to communities, local business and the general population. The real challenge, though, is how to we manage the last two percent – how do we keep driving our network to meet those customers? Things like ROSS will help us deliver that – it’ll help us move towards ubiquitous coverage so that people can move around the country as they like while their mobiles remain constantly connected.”
So that’s the state of play with ROSS100, but there are other tricks up our sleeves that’ll help fill in the gaps…
A MIP on the radar…
The Mobile Infrastructure Project is a government led scheme to fund the building of mobile masts in areas where it’s not otherwise financially viable for networks like Vodafone to do so. We first detailed the project here, but what’s happened since?
“We’re starting to see that come through now,” insists Doctor Rob, “where the government is funding these sites to make it cost effective for operators. We now have four sites live across the country, and we’ll be bringing more and more sites live over the next 12 months – we’ve just got to keep ploughing on and supporting the government, and making sure that when they build a site that we put our radio kit on there as smoothly as possible.
And the best bit? The addition of mobile coverage is really changing lives:
“The feedback from customers in these areas is absolutely phenomenal. They’ve gone from proverbial radio silence – being in the dark, basically – to having a really strong 4G service. They absolutely love it. There’s one site in Dorset where we went live first – before EE – and the comments were brilliant on the blogs about how people had access to everything they wanted to do on Vodafone.”
Overall, then, the future’s looking good for mobile coverage in the UK. As Dr Rob puts it: “We’re using ROSS, our standard Sure Signal and MIP to deliver to areas where it would have been very difficult to roll out in the past.” Watch this space for more.