Vodafone UK said it has launched a new pilot scheme in partnership with rural pubs organisation, Pub is The Hub, to provide rural community pubs with indoor mobile coverage
Four rural pubs are benefiting from the scheme initially: two in Norfolk and one each in Dyfed and Flintshire in Wales. Called the Rural Community Pub programme, the pilot will involve the installation of a Vodafone femtocell unit, which is connected to the fixed broadband connection that already exists within each pub.
The move forms part of general efforts by mobile operators and regulator Ofcom to improve mobile coverage across the UK. Indeed, many areas still suffer from poor to non-existent coverage, particularly when it comes to data networks.
In February, for example, Ofcom varied the licences of the UK's four mobile operators following an agreement reached between the government and the operators in December 2014 to improve mobile coverage across the country.
The UK regulator said the licence variations commit the four operators to provide voice coverage across 90 per cent of the UK's landmass by the end of 2017. In December 2014, Vodafone UK, O2 UK, EE and Three UK agreed to invest £5 billion (€6.7 billion/$7.5 billion) to plug so-called mobile 'not spots'.
Vodafone said the Rural Community Pub pilot and femtocell schemes such as its 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 Vodafone said it was a natural partner when it came to identifying suitable pubs for the pilot scheme.
Jorge Fernandes, Vodafone UK CTO, said: "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."
Vodafone noted that in addition to its rural connectivity campaigns, it is spending more than £2 billion on its network and services across the UK over 2014 and 2015, to extend its 4G coverage to 650 cities and towns and thousands of smaller communities.
- see this Vodafone release
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