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Vodafone calls time on poor mobile signal in rural pubs

Monday, October 5th 2015 by Ellen Branagh

A new pilot scheme from Vodafone will help provide pubs with reliable indoor mobile coverage for the first time.

The operator has teamed up with rural pubs organisation Pub is The Hub to use its Sure Signal technology to provide four rural pubs with indoor coverage.

Dubbed the Rural Community Pub programme, the pilot will see Vodafone’s Premium Sure Signal installed at two Norfolk pubs, and one each in Dyfed and Flintshire in Wales.

Sure Signal uses ‘femtocell’ technology that connects to the pubs’ broadband connection to provide 3G voice and data coverage inside for both employees and customers.

It is similar to the technology used by Vodafone’s Rural Open Sure Signal (ROSS) programme, which aims to bring reliable coverage to rural communities without the need for a traditional mast.

Both schemes are part of efforts to combat poor mobile coverage caused by factors like challenging geography or difficulties with planning permission.

The Cross Keys in Dilham, Norfolk and The Mermaid Inn in Elsing, Norfolk are already using the technology.

Paul Grothier, landlord at The Cross Keys (pictured), said: “I’m really proud that The Cross Keys is the first pub to go live on the trial.

“Dilham is an area with very little mobile coverage and being on the Norfolk Broads, we get a lot of holidaymakers coming into the pub who have previously been disappointed by the lack of coverage.

“Since the technology has gone live, the pub now has fantastic 3G coverage and fast data speeds.

“My customers, staff and business are reaping the benefits.”

The Blue Bell in Halkyn, Flintshire, and The Royal Oak in Rhandirmwyn, Llandovery, Dyfed are expected to go live in the next few months.

Steve Marquis, landlord at the Blue Bell Inn, said the pub brings quite a lot of tourism to the area, and 3G coverage could be a key driver to increase the quality of a visit to the pub.

'Innovative thinking'

John Longden, chief executive for Pub is The Hub, which works with rural pubs to support rural services, said: “When so much of modern life is about ‘connectivity’ 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.”

Jorge Fernandes, Vodafone UK's chief technology officer, added: “We are delighted to be able to help these rural pubs extend and broaden the vital range of services they provide to the communities they serve through the use of the latest mobile technology.

“Pubs up and down the UK are key to the economic and social well-being of rural communities and the country.

“By combining our innovative programmes, such as Rural Community Pubs and ROSS, with our current network improvement programme, we are calling time on no rural mobile coverage.”

The arrival of the pub scheme in Norfolk follows Vodafone’s recent announcement that its ROSS scheme was to take reliable 3G to the rural Norfolk communities of High Kelling, Hillington and Upper Sheringham for the first time.

Cable.co.uk has previously reported how Norfolk residents were concerned that parts of the county are being left behind when it comes to mobile phone signal.

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb welcomed the news that Norfolk pubs are participating in Vodafone’s latest scheme.

He said: “Village pubs are really important to the local community. Indoor mobile internet will be very attractive for customers.”

George Freeman, MP for Mid Norfolk, added: “For too long commercial properties in rural communities have lost out as they lagged behind the rest of the UK in digital connectivity.

“This programme is a great example of the innovative thinking we need and I’m delighted that the Mermaid Inn in Elsing is participating in this important scheme to both improve connectivity and support the local economy.”

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