Plans to bring mobile internet to remote areas of the UK for the first time have been announced by telecoms giant Vodafone.
The mobile operator has been trialling a new scheme called Sure Signal which introduces 3G to previous “not-spots” that struggled to gain mobile internet coverage.
According to an Ofcom report, more than half the UK population use a mobile phone to access the internet, but pockets of the country still struggle with 3G or better coverage which is associated with good mobile internet access.
Following the trial in 12 rural areas, Vodafone is encouraging other communities to work with their local MP to apply for Sure Signal technology to be installed.
Jeroen Hoencamp, chief executive officer of Vodafone UK, said: “This is an opportunity for people to make a real difference to their community and to be part of our commitment to close the digital divide between rural and urban areas.
“Bringing mobile coverage and mobile internet to rural areas gives communities a real boost – both economically and socially.
“I’m looking forward to seeing the successful communities light up and start to experience the benefits mobile connectivity will bring to each and every community involved.”
The scheme has received Government backing, with Culture Secretary Ed Vaizey saying: “Mobile coverage can make a huge difference, particularly to more rural and isolated communities.
“Vodafone’s Sure Signal technology offers communities the chance to transform their lives by bringing them technology many of us take for granted. I urge people to work together with their MPs to take this opportunity and bring mobile coverage to their homes.”
According to Vodafone, the trial scheme gave mobile internet to more than 10,000 people in rural communities for the first time due to the use of femtocell technology. This does not use the traditional microwave signal to give coverage, which can be blocked by buildings and natural landscape. Instead it uses small nodes and existing internet connections to create a high-speed mobile internet connection.
Previous versions of the technology have been based around a router-style device with a range of around 30 metres. Sure Signal will connect to an existing home broadband network to create a 3G hot-spot, allowing for mobile internet access.
Those who took part in the trial have been pleased with the results.
David Blake, project development officer at Cranborne Chase in Dorset, one of the test areas, said: “I am delighted that Vodafone chose Cranborne to be one of the communities that will spearhead this technology.
“It lifted the blight of being a not-spot for mobile phone reception from our village and it shows what can be done when small businesses, large companies and public organisations work together for the common good.
“Being an area of outstanding natural beauty does not mean that we are preserved in aspic like an exhibit. On the contrary, it means that sustainable development is the key to our future and this cannot be achieved without modern communications.”
The other communities in the trial ranged from Devon to Shetland, and communities have until October to register their interest in joining the scheme.