Mobile network operator (MNO) Vodafone UK has revealed that it plans to enhance 4G coverage for customers in busy areas by installing small antennas below street level, which will be located on manhole covers. In a press release the cellco noted that the new antennas could be installed with minimal disruption, as no street works or construction are required. With the antennas connected using Vodafone UK’s ‘all fibre high speed converged network across the UK’, the operator has claimed it will be able to bolster 4G coverage now, while also being able to easily upgrade the antennas for 5G in the future.
Vodafone UK has already installed two types of mobile-enabled manhole covers at its Newbury office and technology centre, one being a purpose-built, reinforced unit which it noted was ‘similar in size to a water butt sunk into the ground’, while the other is said to use an existing cast iron manhole cover. Both antennas can carry reportedly calls and provide fast internet access over a 200 metre radius without consuming much power. In addition to the deployments in Newbury, Vodafone UK has indicated that it is looking to roll out 4G under both its own manhole covers – which it inherited as part of its acquisition of Cable & Wireless Worldwide in 2012 – and those of utility providers across the UK.
Meanwhile, Vodafone UK has confirmed that, as part of its efforts to expand and strengthen its infrastructure by housing mobile equipment within street furniture, it has begun fitting small 4G antennas to the roofs of traditional phone boxes. The first deployment is underway in Princes Street, Edinburgh.
Commenting, Vodafone UK Chief Executive Nick Jeffery said: ‘We are committed to providing customers with the best network possible by drawing on our strengths in innovation and strong UK heritage. It is great to be able to use yesterday’s infrastructure – from phone boxes to manhole covers – to deliver the services of tomorrow. This is one of the ways we are extending our 4G services to areas other networks cannot reach, and getting ready for 5G.’