Vodafone 4g phone box

Cornish phone boxes converted to provide 4G signal on the beachfront

Image credit: Vodafone

Cornish phone boxes are being adapted to provide 4G phone coverage on the Vodafone network to seaside visitors.

Many of the coastal areas typically have poor signal due to their relatively rural locations. Meanwhile, telephone box usage is currently falling dramatically, with around a 20 per cent drop annually. In 2017 it was found that a third of phone boxes were only used once a month and many never used at all, prompting BT to scrap 20,000 of them.

Vodafone will adapt the boxes in Polzeath and Sennen Cove in Cornwall to provide 4G coverage in a 200-metre radius, as well as allowing customers to make use of a range of connected devices such as pet trackers.

The network said that mobile coverage can often be difficult to provide in remote areas and coastal locations due to the local topography and the lack of power and fibre cables needed to link up masts.

The Government’s current target is to extend mobile coverage to 95 per cent of the UK landmass by 2022. Earlier this month, Ofcom’s chief technology officer said that this target would not be reached under the current plans. 

Ofcom also warned that half of premises in remote locations across the UK still have “patchy or unreliable” mobile reception, despite wider improvements to mobile coverage across the country.

Reliable voice calls are now available to 97 per cent of premises in urban homes and offices from all operators, while 83 per cent have access to complete 4G coverage.

In contrast, only 41 per cent of premises in rural areas are able to access good quality data, which is defined as a connection speed of at least 2Mbit/s.

The mobile network is hoping the move will improve services during the busier summer period, after an increase in visitors to Cornwall during 2018’s heatwave led to a 90 per cent surge in internet traffic.

Vodafone is also testing 4G in phone boxes in busy shopping areas in Edinburgh, Oxford and soon in London, making use of old BT phone boxes.

“Improved mobile coverage in rural areas helps the local economy, keeps people connected and, above all, offers reassurance at times when you just have to make that call, but it can be challenging to deliver,” said Scott Petty, chief technology officer of Vodafone UK.

“That is why we are in the final stages of presenting to Government our industry-wide blueprint for improving mobile coverage. It is also why we are looking at innovative ways of extending coverage, such as making use of phone boxes.”

In September 2018, Vodafone demonstrated a holographic call using 5G technology in a live call between a footballer and a fan. 

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