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Vodafone's 'mobile network in a briefcase' to boost 4G coverage in London

Tuesday, May 31st 2016 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

Vodafone has found a new, more energy efficient way of extending its 4G mobile network in urban areas.

Working with Ericsson, the operator has developed a new ‘mini base station’ that is half the size and weight of a standard mobile radio unit – and much easier to install on rooftops.

The new Ericsson Radio System is about the size of a briefcase and can simply be carried up the stairs to a rooftop by an engineer.

Standard radio units have to be installed using a crane, an expensive process that causes disruption as nearby roads have to be closed off.

The first mini base station has been installed in Southwark, London, and Vodafone is planning to roll out the new system across the capital and in other urban areas.

Jorge Fernandes, Vodafone UK’s chief technology officer, said: “We continue to look at new and innovative ways of providing improved mobile coverage in order to meet our customers’ soaring demand for mobile data and video while minimising disruption to the general public and improving the aesthetics of the surrounding area.

“We are delighted to be partnering with Ericsson, one of our key network suppliers, on this project and look forward to further engaging with local councils and government to look at ways of reducing red tape around site planning for mobile mast installations.”

Vodafone has previously criticised the UK’s “out-of-date” planning laws for hindering efforts to improve mobile coverage.

Petek Ergul, head of networks at the operator, said there needs to be a “complete change of mindset” in the way efforts to improve infrastructure are dealt with to allow network improvements to be rolled out faster.

'The focus is on 4G'

Ms Ergul said mobile masts are a particular problem and often aren’t tall enough to provide a good signal.

She said Vodafone has received “fantastic” feedback on 4G and the installation of 4G sites in an area is the start of an “ongoing cycle” to improve service, eliminating not-spots and improving any weak areas.

“There’s huge effort that goes into strengthening our performance and the network for the benefits of all of our customers, wherever they live and work.

“Hopefully legislation and changes to outdated property and planning laws will come through which makes it easier for us to achieve our goals in regards to the network, but right now, we’re not worried about that.”

“We will always make sure that the network is ready for the future. We’ll keep an eye on that, but the focus is on 4G.”

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