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Vodafone trials bird box antenna to boost rural mobile coverage

Tuesday, June 2nd 2015 by Ellen Branagh

Vodafone has developed a mini-antenna that looks like a bird box to boost mobile coverage for customers in rural areas.

The bird box antenna picks up a signal from the nearest mobile mast and boosts it to provide better indoor coverage without ruining the appearance of rural buildings.

Developed in conjunction with telecommunications consultant NET Coverage Solutions, the bird box is being tested in a garden in Wiltshire, the operator said.

The bird box uses mobile coverage repeater technology, which boosts the mobile signal to provide enhanced coverage indoors as well as throughout small rural communities.

It does not allow birds to nest inside but has been designed to blend into a country building, Vodafone said.

Pedro Santos, Vodafone UK’s lead technical engineer, said: “We take great care about the visual impact our systems have on the beautiful country side.

“A standard external mobile antenna can look out of place situated on or near a rural cottage so we are always looking at clever ways to ensure they blend in to the surroundings.

“The Vodafone bird box is working well and no birds have been sufficiently fooled to try to get in to it, although the customer says it looks very convincing.”

Vodafone has been making a series of improvements to enhance indoor and outdoor mobile coverage for customers in remote communities.

The company’s Rural Open Sure Signal (ROSS) service, which uses ‘femtocell’ technology to bring reliable mobile coverage to rural communities, builds on the technology in Sure Signal boosters used to improve indoor connectivity.

Blend into surroundings

The boosters, which are no bigger than a cereal box, have been adapted in some cases to blend into surroundings like the exterior stone walls of pubs.

Vodafone network engineers also recently built a special mobile installation in London complete with nesting box and walkway to avoid disturbing nesting peregrine falcons, the company said.

Earlier this year, the operator announced that it will launch two new technologies this summer to boost mobile coverage for its customers.

Wi-fi calling gives the user a voice signal without the need to go through an app by using existing wi-fi services, while Voice over LTE (VoLTE) carries voice calls over 4G instead of using 2G or 3G as they do today.

The company has been testing both technologies in its network laboratory for several months and now intends to start VoLTE user trials ahead of its commercial launch.

The rollouts are part of £1 billion Vodafone is currently spending on its network and services across the UK.

The UK’s four mobile network operators are obliged to invest a total of £5bn to improve mobile coverage as part an agreement with the government.

Vodafone, Three, EE and O2 have until the end of 2017 to provide voice and text coverage across 90% of the UK’s landmass.

They already meet a 3G coverage obligation to reach 90% of UK premises but this agreement aimed to improve the level of outdoor coverage.

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