14 January 2019
Vodafone is installing small antennas below street level to help improve 4G mobile coverage in busy urban areas.
According to the company, the manhole cover antennas can be installed with “minimal” disruption to local people. No street or construction works are required, and because all the kit is below ground, the look of the area remains unaffected.
Vodafone has installed two types of mobile enabled manhole covers at its Newbury office and technology centre. One of these is a purpose-built, reinforced unit similar in size to a water butt sunk into the ground. The other uses an existing cast iron manhole cover.
The antennas are connected using Vodafone’s all-fibre high-speed converged network across the UK. The operator says they can carry calls and provide fast internet access over a 200 metre radius without consuming much power.
The move is part of what Vodafone describes as “inventive” ways to expand and strengthen its network. The company says it is already fitting the roofs of traditional phone boxes with small 4G antennas, starting in Princes Street, Edinburgh. It says using phone boxes to house antennas offers another way of increasing the speed and capacity of a 4G signal at street level, as well as for extending LTE in rural areas where a mobile mast is difficult to install as they rely on a power supply and fibre.
Vodafone UK chief executive Nick Jeffery says: “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.”