Cornwall is a county on England’s rugged southwestern tip. Famous for its excellent surfing and seafood, the area is primarily rural, with 47% of the population living outside towns.
While Cornwall’s remote position has allowed it to retain its unique sense of culture and unspoilt landscape, its isolation also puts it in a disadvantaged position economically and socially.
Like many rural areas across Europe, Cornwall has traditionally struggled to receive good quality 4G mobile coverage from any network.
“Mobile reception’s not been great in the local area for a good few years,” one resident told us, while another said he could only get mobile signal in two specific points in his village – at the top of the steps to the church, or immediately outside one of his neighbours’ houses.
“This seemed to be a dead spot,” he said.
Connecting Cornwall, Vodafone UK
But that changed in summer 2021, when the arrival of Vodafone’s 4G network enabled customers in Cornwall’s Fistral Beach and St Keverne to enjoy reliable, fast mobile internet and calls.
Not only is the new network allowing residents to contact each other more easily, but it’s also helping open up education and employment opportunities to more people living in rural areas.
Cornwall is just one example of how Vodafone is using OpenRAN to extend its 4G network across the country. Morehampton, Lifton, Selborne, Pendine, Halkyn, Bradfield and Middleton-in-Teesdale were the first locations across Devon, Hampshire, Wales, Yorkshire and Country Durham to enjoy the benefits of OpenRAN technology.
The activity is part of a network modernisation programme to improve 4G and 5G experience for all customers. This programme will see Vodafone retiring its 3G network in 2023 and replacing coverage with strengthened 4G and 5G services, so customers across more parts of the UK can access a more reliable connection through the Vodafone network.
The programme builds on other Vodafone initiatives to extend 4G and 5G services to rural communities. These include the Shared Rural Network, a £1bn joint initiative between Government and the UK’s four mobile network operators to extend overall 4G coverage to 95% of the UK landmass by the end of 2025.
Katie Pontin, a Technical Specialist at Vodafone UK, helped set up the network. “OpenRAN is a new network technology that allows separation of hardware and software components,” she explains. “This means that we can deploy in more locations, it’s easier to operate and maintain, and we can further improve coverage.”
By using OpenRAN, Vodafone is bringing mobile coverage to more places than ever and helping to close the UK's digital divide.
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