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Lifting the lid on manhole covers to improve network coverage

21/12/2018
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It’s frustrating when you can’t get signal on your mobile phone isn’t it? It’s not the worst thing in the world (obviously), but in an attempt to improve network coverage across the UK Vodafone is enlisting the help of a rather low-tech piece of street furniture- manhole covers…
Vodafone's new manhole antennae will not only improve 4G coverage, but will prepare the way for the roll out of 5G.
(Image via Vodafone).

So what role do manhole covers play in improving network coverage?

It basically involves installing small antennae on the underside of each manhole cover. The idea is that the antennae can be installed with minimal disruption to local people (the manhole cover is already there after all), and without disturbing the aesthetics of a street as the antennae sits out of sight below ground.

By installing mini-antennae across the UK Vodafone phone not only hopes to improve network coverage now, but have the infrastructure in place for the forthcoming 5G rollout. A statement from Vodafone explains:

“These fibre-connected 5G-enabled small antennae are the foundation on which connected smart cities will be built. 5G connectivity will allow connected traffic lights instantly to reroute road traffic around congestion, councils automatically to schedule repairs for broken infrastructure like street lighting, and businesses to manage how energy they use intelligently.
Vodafone is currently testing two types of manhole antennae at its facility in Newbury, UK.
(Image via Vodafone).

At present, Vodafone is testing 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, whilst the other uses an existing cast iron manhole cover. So far, tests have revealed that the below-ground antennae can carry calls and provide fast internet access over a 200-metre radius without consuming much power.

It’s not just manhole covers that Vodafone is enlisting in the fight against poor network coverage. The company is also fitting the roofs of traditional phone boxes with small 4G antennae. This solution is being pioneered as a means of improving coverage in rural areas where mobile masts can be both unsightly and difficult to install.

“We are committed to providing customers with the best network possible by drawing on our strengths in innovation and strong UK heritage,” says Vodafone UK Chief Executive Nick Jeffery. “It’s great to be able to use yesterday’s infrastructure- from phone boxes to manhole covers- to deliver the services of tomorrow”.

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…then register with Fircroft today. We work with some of the world’s leading Telecoms companies and continually have high-quality job opportunities available for experienced and qualified Telecoms professionals.
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Lifting the lid on manhole covers to improve network coverage - Time to read 3 min
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