Is THIS the key to better signal in rural areas? Vodafone switches on UK’s first self-powering mast

Is THIS the key to wiping out rural mobile ‘not spots’? Vodafone switches on the UK’s first self-powering 4G mast in Pembrokeshire

  • Vodafone’s self-powering mast has been set up on a farm in Pembrokeshire 
  • It uses solar and wind power and doesn’t need to connect to the national grid
  • During a 2-year trial, it will provide 4G coverage to the community of Eglwyswrw

Poor mobile coverage is an issue that many Brits regularly contend with – with people in rural areas particularly struggling to connect.

Now, Vodafone believes it has the solution to these rural mobile ‘not-spots’, having switched on the UK’s first self-powering mobile phone mast.

The mast in Pembrokeshire runs on solar and wind power without the need to connect to the national electricity grid, and will provide 4G coverage to the community of Eglwyswrw.

‘If this trial is a success, we would like to roll out more “self-powering” masts, with a focus on areas with poor or no coverage,’ said Andrea Dona, Chief Network Officer and Development Director at Vodafone.

The mast in Pembrokeshire runs on solar and wind power without the need to connect to the national electricity grid and will provide 4G coverage to the community of Eglwyswrw

What is the Shared Rural Network? 

In 2020, the UK Government signed an agrement called The Shared Rural Network (SRN) to improve rural mobile coverage by 2025.

Under the deal, mobile industry operators will invest around £500 million to fill ‘partial not-spots’. 

‘The Government will invest up to £500 million on new masts in “total not-spots” (areas with no coverage from any operator),’ the UK government explained.

‘This part of the SRN will also include masts built as part of the Home Office’s new Emergency Services Network, which is also forecast to improve rural mobile coverage.

‘Together these commitments are expected to bring 4G coverage to 95 per cent of the UK landmass by 2025.’ 

The mast is part of Vodafone’s ambitious goal of reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2027.

It incorporates a Crossflow Energy wind turbine that can generate power, even in light winds, with minimal noise.

Because it doesn’t need to be connected to the national electricity circuit, the mast is fast and easy to install, according to Vodafone.

‘Until now, the use of “small wind” turbines in the race to net zero has been limited due to issues of performance, reliability, and planning concerns such as noise, vibration, and damage to ecology,’ said Martin Barnes, CEO of Crossflow Energy.

‘The unique design of our wind turbine addresses all these challenges head on.

‘We believe that one day its use could be as widespread and commonplace as solar panels.’

The trial will run for two years at Home Farm in the village of Eglwyswrw, and if it proves a success, could pave the way for more self-powering masts in rural areas.

‘Connectivity is vital to everyone, no matter where you live,’ Ms Don said.

‘This self-powering mobile phone mast, with on-site battery storage, could help us connect places that were previously impossible to reach.

‘It will also help us reduce carbon emissions and minimise our impact on local environments.’

The mast incorporates a Crossflow Energy wind turbine that can generate power, even in light winds, with minimal noise

The mast incorporates a Crossflow Energy wind turbine that can generate power, even in light winds, with minimal noise

The price for the project remains unclear. 

So far, as part of its commitment to reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2027, Vodafone has switched to 100 per cent renewable energy. 

According to the firm, this has reduced carbon emissions from its UK operations by 55 per cent in the last year. 

In 2020, the UK Government signed an agreement called The Shared Rural Network (SRN) to improve rural mobile coverage by 2025.

Under the deal, mobile industry operators will invest around £500 million to fill ‘partial not-spots’. 

‘The Government will invest up to £500 million on new masts in “total not-spots” (areas with no coverage from any operator),’ the UK government explained.

‘This part of the SRN will also include masts built as part of the Home Office’s new Emergency Services Network, which is also forecast to improve rural mobile coverage.

‘Together these commitments are expected to bring 4G coverage to 95 per cent of the UK landmass by 2025.’ 

How does YOUR town stack up? UK’s best areas for mobile coverage are revealed – with Camden, Brent and Watford topping the list 

Experts have revealed the UK’s best and worst areas for coverage – with seven out of the top ten areas in London.

Camden, Brent, Watford and Redbridge were revealed as the areas with the best coverage, while Derry City and Strabane, North Ayrshire and the Shetland Islands were the worst.

‘Mobile networks are constantly evolving and improving as years go by, as more networks put up masts around the country, improving the scope and quality of mobile coverage,’ said Ben Branson, CEO of Fonehouse.

‘Even so, there are still areas where coverage is weaker than others as the roll-out has been hampered by technology availability.’

Experts have revealed the UK's best and worst areas for coverage – with seven out of the top ten areas in London

Experts have revealed the UK’s best and worst areas for coverage – with seven out of the top ten areas in London

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