Vodafone UK creates bird box antenna to increase countryside mobile coverage and get around phone mast limitations
In a bid to beat restrictions on network mast deployment in areas of conservation, Vodafone UK is testing femtocells disguised as bird boxes.
Faced with so-called ‘not-spots’ in the UK where geography can make it hard to deliver a consistent mobile signal, mobile operators are being challenged to bring mobile connectivity to the whole of the UK.
While many problems can be solved by large network masts, there are some circumstances where a mast is not a feasible solution, such as in many of the UK’s national parks, which are protected conservation sites but still home to thousands of people.
With those areas in mind, Vodafone UK’s network engineers have worked with the telecoms experts at NET Coverage Solutions to develop a new solution for those in rural areas; a bird box femtocell.
Disguised as a garden bird box, Vodafone’s femtocell mini antenna’s should bring better mobile coverage, particularly indoors, to those living in rural areas. The bird box femtocell works as a supercharged signal booster, picking up the mobile signal from the nearest network mast, and boosting it to provide better coverage in the surrounding area.
The box is currently still in testing in a leafy Wiltshire garden, and things are looking rosy according to Pedro Santos, Vodafone UK’s lead network engineer and the man who installed the first box.
Santos commented: “The Vodafone bird box is working well and no birds have been sufficiently fooled to try to get into it, although the customer says it looks very convincing. We take great care about the visual impact our systems have on the beautiful country side,” he continues. “A standard external mobile antenna can look out of place situated on or near a rural cottage so we are always looking at clever ways to ensure they blend into the surroundings.”
Vodafone’s ecological awareness stretches far beyond its work to bring mobile signal to the nation. Over the years, its network masts have become regular homes for nesting peregrine falcons, now a protected species in the UK, and Vodafone network engineers have to take considerable precautions to avoid disturbing them.
Vodafone commented on its blog: “Although our latest bird box might not be able to house any birds, they will always be at home on top of one of our masts.”