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Pubs in rural Wales get 3G signal boost from Vodafone scheme

Tuesday, December 8th 2015 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

Staff and customers at two pubs in rural Wales are enjoying reliable mobile coverage for the first time thanks to a Vodafone pilot scheme.

Signal-boosting units installed in the Blue Bell in Halkyn, Flintshire, and the Royal Oak in Rhandirmwyn, Llandovery in Carmarthenshire, give users access to 3G voice coverage and high-speed mobile internet.

The technology was installed as part of Vodafone’s Rural Community Pub programme, which is run in partnership with rural pubs organisation Pub is the Hub.

The Rural Community Pub pilot and Vodafone’s ‘femtocell’ schemes, such as its successful Rural Open Sure Signal (ROSS) programme, help bring reliable coverage to rural communities without the need for a traditional mast.

Pub is The Hub works closely with rural pubs to support rural services through diversification and helped identify the pubs for the pilot scheme.

The Blue Bell and the Royal Oak join two Norfolk pubs – the Cross Keys in Dilham and The Mermaid Inn in Elsing – that benefited from the scheme earlier this year.

Steve Marquis, landlord at the Blue Bell, said: “The Blue Bell brings quite a bit of tourism to north east Wales.

“Vodafone’s brilliant 3G coverage will only increase the quality of a visit to our venue. It is a great way for our customers to share their experiences with us instantly through channels like social media.”

Christopher Pollington, landlord of the Royal Oak Inn, added: “It has been great to be able to offer this service to our customers.

“We are very rural and we have little or no mobile coverage from any networks, so to be able to offer 3G in such a remote location is quite remarkable.”

Jorge Fernandes, Vodafone UK’s chief technology officer, said: “It’s great news that both the Royal Oak and the Blue Bell are beginning to see the benefits of mobile connectivity which is vital to rural communities in today’s digital world.

'Mobile phone reception'

“Like our Rural Open Sure Signal initiative, the Rural Community Pubs programme uses our innovative small cell solutions to bring mobile coverage to hard-to-reach locations in the UK for the very first time.”

Pub is the Hub CEO John Longden said: “With mobile phone reception in rural Wales being such an asset we were delighted to work with Vodafone on this pilot project – we can only see benefits to rural pubs and their surrounding communities and visitors.”

Earlier this year, Cable.co.uk reported on concerned from MPs and residents that Wales is in danger of being left behind the rest of the UK because of poor broadband and mobile connectivity.

Liz Saville Roberts, MP for north Wales constituency Dwyfor Meirionnydd, told a Commons debate that poor internet speed was "doubly damaging" in rural areas given the "poor, if not non-existent, mobile data signal".

"Just 17% of Gwynedd is covered by the 3G data signal compared with a UK average of 84%, and most of that area is in the university town rather than my constituency," she said.

"We have no 4G whatsoever — it is easy to remember that statistic. Our businesses are crying out for high-speed internet access and the Welsh Government are failing them."

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