Connecting villages in rural Romania
Working from home during COVID-19 meant many of us could go from bed to desk in seconds. But what if you had to walk 45 minutes away from your home to check your emails?
This was a daily reality for the people of Drăghești, Busești and Cerna-Vârf, three remote villages in the Romanian county of Mehedinți. During the pandemic, they faced increased isolation due to having no internet access – something many of us took for granted as we seamlessly stayed connected with our loved ones throughout lockdowns.
“If we had good network like there is in the city, then I could talk with my children,” one villager told us. “We walk four or five kilometers to reach a network serviced area. We go on top of the hills, but sometimes even there we can’t find any signal.”
During lockdown, it became almost impossible to connect with relatives or medical services. Children were not permitted to physically attend school - and without internet, they could not access their online lessons.
“My son had a hard time with online classes,” another resident told us. “Without internet in our village he had to go to his grandma’s house to join lessons. Every day he walked 10 kilometres.”
At the beginning of 2021, the residents of the three villages had had enough. Along with the Mayor of Mehedinți, they wrote to Vodafone asking for help.
“Dear Vodafone,” they wrote. “The people in the villages of Drăghești, Busești and Cerna-Vârf ask you to bring the internet to us.”
In response, Vodafone Romania’s teams of engineers developed and installed a mobile network for these communities in record time. Fibre optic cables, electronic communications equipment and dedicated 4G towers were installed in previously inaccessible places, connecting 300 households to the internet. Once complete, Vodafone’s services delivered speeds comparable to the best of urban areas.
“We dug through stone, bringing over 21 kilometres of optical fibre for the fixed network,” said Marius Dumitru, Site Manager at Vodafone Romania. “We brought the network where there was none before.”
And it didn’t stop there. Between March 2020 and June 2021, Vodafone Romania expanded its rural mobile coverage, installing more than 700 new 4G stations. More than 150,000 people in 158 rural areas benefited from upgraded connection to Vodafone’s voice and data services.
Vodafone’s network now covers 96% of Romania’s rural population, giving connectivity to some of the country’s most isolated communities. During the same period, Vodafone also extended its high-quality fixed network to 21,000 rural households through new developments or extensions to the existing network.
As a result, the people of Mehedinți were able to attend online school classes and keep in touch with their loved ones hundreds of kilometers away.
“Our mission is to leave no one behind,” said Cătălin Buliga, Chief Network Officer at Vodafone Romania. “To take technology, the internet and communication tools where there’s a great need of them.”
The story of how Vodafone connected Mehedinți is told in the documentary Visuri împlinite acasă (“Dreams fulfilled at home”), broadcast on TV in Romania and available on YouTube here:
Vodafone is helping realise the potential of rural communities in Europe as part of our commitment to promoting a sustainable future, reducing inequalities and encouraging social cohesion. Connecting rural areas can significantly contribute to the achievement of wider EU objectives - including the twin green and digital transitions, reinforcing the economy and creating a fair and tolerant society.
Read our Rural Connectivity report to learn more about the benefits of connectivity as an enabler of rural communities, the challenges in developing rural connectivity, and the policy tools used by governments to support rural connectivity.
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