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A hundred rural community hubs are to receive a boost to their indoor 3G mobile coverage and internet access under a new scheme – Community Indoor Sure Signal – set up by operator Vodafone.
The programme builds on the success of the operator’s Rural Open Sure Signal programme, which has brought reliable outdoor mobile coverage to rural communities across the UK. It also follows on a small-scale programme launched in September 2015 in conjunction with Pub is the Hub, a non-profit organisation that provides business advice to rural pub landlords.
Vodafone called for applications from rural community centres where people struggle to use their devices indoors in the wake of a successful trial conducted in The Bear and Ragged Staff pub at Bransford in Worcestershire.
It said it would consider applications from independent or community-run pubs and shops, village halls, scout huts, GP surgeries and visitor centres. Applications will be open until 1 September 2016.
The scheme will rely on femtocell technology similar to that already deployed under the wider rural programme, eliminating the need for traditional masts. The femtocell units will connect to a fixed broadband router. Users will be able to make both calls and use data on their devices, as long as they are Vodafone customers.
Successful applicants will have to have an unlimited fixed broadband package offering download speeds of at least 4Mbps and upload speeds of at least 2Mbps, said Vodafone.
“We are absolutely delighted with our Vodafone Sure Signal+ unit, which is providing our business with excellent Vodafone mobile coverage,” said The Bear and Ragged Staff’s Lynda Williams.
“Being located in a rural area this is something we have struggled with, but Vodafone have provided us with a solution. It was extremely easy to install and within minutes we were connected to the world.”
“Reliable mobile coverage and mobile internet are vital to the economic and social well-being of rural communities,” added Vodafone UK CTO Jorge Fernandes. “By installing our units, we can ensure that rural hotspots continue to play an important role in rural community life.”