It’s day two of revealing some of the most exciting future technology projects taking place in Vodafone right now. Today we’ll be looking at two ways to enhance mobile network coverage:

3) Chat anywhere - Santiago Tenorio, Vodafone Group Head of Network Strategy & Architecture

Chat anywhere - Santiago Tenorio, Vodafone Group Head of Network Strategy & Architecture

Increasingly, our customers want to be connected at all times. Yet, as every smartphone user knows, despite the widespread coverage provided by mobile networks, there are still places that don’t get signal, for example deep indoors or within some lifts.

Vodafone was the first operator in the world to launch NB-IoT, a Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) network technology which provides an opportunity to resolve this issue. 

LPWA is a network layer designed to transmit limited amounts of data. It offers increased coverage in remote, rural areas and underground through the adoption of techniques that enhance radio signal propagation compared to GSM.

CAT-M, another LPWA technology, could in future be used to provide better voice coverage as well.  

We can add LPWA technologies that use licenced radio spectrum deep in the protocol stack and enable chat apps to adapt their software to use them. Doing so could complement other network technologies and enable chat apps to continue working, even when it is not possible to use voice and internet data. 

 

4) Emergency drones - Antonio Oliver, New Technologies & Innovation Manager, Vodafone Group’s Networks Centre of Excellence

4) Emergency drones - Antonio Oliver, New Technologies & Innovation Manager, Vodafone Group’s Networks Centre of Excellence

Poor or non-existent cellular coverage is life-threatening in emergency situations.

Better coverage is possible if one removes natural obstacles to the signal, such as buildings, trees, hills and mountains.

Vodafone Group’s New Technologies and Innovation team has been experimenting in the hills of northern Andalucía with mobile relays mounted on a drone.

The relays are based on a specially adapted CrowdCell, because using that technology we do not need to modify the cellular radio network to extend the cellular coverage. Using the Elistair tethering system to supply power, the drone was able to hover in position at up to 80 metres above ground level for periods of over a day.

In some areas, our ‘Flying CrowdCell’ delivered 4G coverage of up to 3 Megabits per second where before there was none. It can also connect local users without the need to route the call through the main macro network and is able to offer video streaming for surveillance purposes.

The effectiveness of drones for supporting mobile connectivity will always depend on the local terrain, but we intend to develop it further for use by the emergency services in remote locations.