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Vodafone has installed the first of a number of briefcase-sized mini mobile base stations in Southwark, south London, as it looks to improve its network coverage in the city and reduce its reliance on large and visually unappealing masts.
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The units, supplied by Ericsson, are fully equipped with three-way carrier aggregation – a technology that combines bandwidth from the 800MHz, 1.8GHz and 2.6GHz spectrum owned by Vodafone – to improve 4G browsing speeds.
Other UK networks, including EE, are also rolling out this technology, which is also known as 4G+.
Vodafone and Ericsson said the radio units offered three times the capacity of a conventional base station. Vodafone’s trials of carrier aggregation have achieved download speeds of 240Mbps, and it claimed the trial sites were now ready to deliver speeds of 700Mbps.
“We continue to look at new ways of providing improved mobile coverage in order to meet our customers’ demand for mobile data and video while minimising disruption to the general public and improving the aesthetics of the surrounding area,” said Vodafone UK CTO Jorge Fernandes.
Additionally, the new smaller sites are said to be relatively energy efficient and easier to deploy. For example, engineers can mount them on accessible rooftops without the need to close off streets and negotiate access for cranes.
Besides carrier aggregation, Vodafone is also exploring the deployment of antennae and small cell technology to help meet long-term capacity requirements, which will become more pronounced in the next few years when 5G networks begin to make an appearance.
Vodafone Foundation, the global provider’s charitable arm, has previously deployed similar mini base station units as a stopgap measure around the world to bolster connectivity in the wake of major disasters.