Vodafone Harness Disused BT Phone Boxes to Boost UK 4G Cover


In a slightly comical twist Vodafone has boosted their 4G mobile network coverage around part of Cornwall (i.e. the popular seaside resorts of Polzeath and Sennen Cove) by installing radio kit inside disused telephone boxes, which just so happened to once belong to arch rival BT. More of this will soon follow across the UK.

Extending modern 4G and future 5G mobile technologies into more remote areas is often a challenging task for UK operators, not least due to issue of local topography, gripes against related planning applications, the lack of power and an absence of high capacity fibre optic cables to link up their masts. As such an operator sometimes has to get a little innovative in order to fill in the gaps.

So what better way to boost your coverage, while at the same time sticking two fingers up at a long-time rival, than to use some of their now largely disused phone boxes (kit gets installed right at the top of the phone box, naturally).

Scott Petty, CTO of Vodafone UK, said:

“Improved mobile coverage in rural areas helps the local economy, keeps people connected, and above all, offers reassurance at times when you just have to make that call. But it can be challenging to deliver. That is why we are in the final stages of presenting to Government our industry-wide blueprint for improving mobile coverage. It is also why we are looking at innovative ways of extending coverage, such as making use of phone boxes.”

Vodafone doesn’t actually name drop BT in their announcement of the new so-called “4G from a phone box” service, but there can be no doubt about what they’re saying from the accompanying picture. Apparently each box should deliver a boost to signal coverage within approximately a 200-metre radius. People nearby can also make use of Vodafone’s range of connected devices, including the V-Pet Tracker.

The operator sees all of this as helping to support the Government’s ambition for extending mobile coverage to 95% of the UK’s landmass by 2022. Vodafone are also testing 4G in phone boxes in busy shopping areas across Edinburgh, Oxford and soon in London too. At their technology headquarters in Newbury, Berkshire, they’re also oddly trialling housing 4G on the underside of manhole covers (here).

Meanwhile the Cornish 4G-enabled phone boxes are equipped to cope with the increase in mobile usage over the Easter break and over the summer months. During the heatwave in 2018, their network in Cornwall carried nearly 90% more mobile Internet traffic than the previous year and this Easter break is looking to be another hot one.

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