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September 26, 2014

Vodafone’s rural 3G plan receives boost

Local councils and Countryside Alliance want communities to sign up to the mobile coverage programme.

By Amy-Jo Crowley

Vodafone has received backing from the National Association of Local Councils and the Countryside Alliance to give 100 rural communities across the UK the opportunity to boost their 3G mobile signal.

As part of its Rural Open Sure Signal Programme, launched in July, the mobile operator is calling for small businesses and community councils that currently receive poor or no mobile signal to apply for its Sure Signal technology.

Using ‘open femto’ technology, Sure Signal consists of a number of units the size of a domestic broadband box, which can be installed on village halls, pubs, shops and homes across the community to ensure widespread mobile coverage.

Jeroen Hoencamp, Vodafone’s UK CEO, said while the programme had received a "tremendously positive response", it is still keen to attract more communities.

"Now that the summer holidays are behind us we are keen for more communities across the UK to get involved and I am very pleased that the NALC and the Countryside Alliance are supporting our major programme to improve rural mobile coverage," he said.

"We are now three weeks away from the closing date and I encourage those who have not yet put in their applications to take up this opportunity to bring mobile access to communities in their local village."

Sarah Lee, Head of Policy for the Countryside Alliance, added: "Mobile phones are an essential part of modern life, but many rural businesses and families cannot be sure that they will be able to access their network when they need it most. VodafoneRural Open Sure Signal is a good example of the innovative systems that can fill in reception gaps in the more remote and difficult to reach areas."

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The backing is the latest part of a major push by Vodafone to expand its network across the country as it looks to cover 98% of the population with its 2G,3G or 4G networks in the next few years.

The company says it has spent more than £1 billion on its network and services across the country this year, including extending its 4G coverage to 259 cities and towns and thousands of smaller communities across the UK.

Vodafone has already carried out trials in 12 rural communities, from Walls in the Shetland Islands to Newton St Cyres in Devon.

Applications for the programme close on 14 October 2014 with the first communities to be connected by the end of the year.

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