A pilot scheme by Vodafone will see community pubs getting enhanced mobile coverage using small cells.
The Rural Community Pub programme, in conjunction with the trade body Pub is the Hub, will provide four pubs with indoor coverage using Vodafone’s Premium Sure Signal.
The pubs, two in Norfolk and one each in Dyfed and Flintshire in Wales, will receive femtocells about the size of a broadband router, which will connect to fixed broadband connections and provide 3G coverage.
The move aims to tackle generally poor coverage in pubs, driven by remote locations and the absence of fixed fibre connections.
Vodafone has already used femtocells in its Rural Open Sure Signal programme.
However, it seems likely that femtocells will remain confined to providing coverage in public places rather than to people’s homes for the time being.
Kester Mann, Principal Analyst at CCS Insight, told CBR: “Femtocells are one of a number of solutions to improve voice coverage.
“The logical approach is to go for high-density areas because of the better return on investment.”
In a recent interview with CBR, Mike Hibberd of DeviceScape argued that small cells were unlikely to make it into households.
Hibberd argues that there are inherent flaws with a femtocell approach compared to wi-fi. Commenting on Vodafone’s roll-out, he said: “The problems with femtocells are that either the customer or the operator has to pay for them, and they are generally tied to specific operators. This means the coverage they offer only helps a subset of consumers.”