Femtocells will help rural drinkers enjoy 3G with their pint as part of a pilot programme
Four rural pubs are to be fitted with Vodafone femtocells in a bid to improve mobile coverage that landlords and trade associations say is necessary for these community hubs to thrive.
Femtocells emit a cellular signal across a small area and connect to a fixed broadband connection. This can help improve coverage in areas where a lack of infrastructure, usually dictated by economics, means many mobile users can struggle for reception, especially indoors.
Vodafone already offers femtocells to rural communities through its ‘Rural Open Sure Signal’ (ROSS) programme, which will benefit 100 villages initially.
Rural pub signal
For this particular project, the operator has teamed up with ‘Pub is The Hub’, an organisation which helps rural pubs survive through diversification, for a pilot scheme taking place in Norfolk and Wales. The partners claim rural pubs provide vital community service and each contributes £80,000 to the economy.
“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,” said Jorge Fernandes, Vodafone UK CTO. “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 Cross Keys in Dilham and The Mermaid Inn in Elsing, both in Norfolk, have already been equipped while the Blue Bell, Halkyn in Flintshire and The Royal Oak, Rhandirmwyn, Llandovery, Dyfed will go live in the next few months. Local MPs and landlords have welcomed the development.
“Dilham is an area with very little mobile coverage and being on the Norfolk Broads, we get a lot of holiday makers coming into the pub who have previously been disappointed by the lack of coverage,” said Paul Grothier, landlord of The Cross Keys. “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.”
Vodafone has also launched Call+, an Android application that allows users to add contact photos, status and location information to phone calls. The app acts as a replacement for a smartphone’s native dialler and SMS applications, aggregating communications into a single repository. Last month, the Newbury-based firm launched Voice over Wi-Fi (VoWi-Fi) for users with a compatible device.