Vodafone shares unused 4G spectrum to boost rural connectivity

News

Vodafone is the first UK operator to share unused 4G spectrum to help connect rural areas, following a recent decision by Ofcom.

Through a three-year agreement, indoor mobile service provider StrattoOpencell will use Vodafone’s 2600MHz frequency spectrum to connect consumers and businesses without access to fixed fibre broadband. Vodafone will continue to use the 2600MHz spectrum to improve mobile capacity in busy areas such as stadiums and city centres.

StrattoOpencell will initially use the spectrum to provide broadband services to users at a holiday site in Devon through the deployment of 4G outdoor small cells.

History of innovation

Vodafone UK’s Chief Executive Officer Nick Jeffery said, “Vodafone has a long history of innovation, from sending the first text message to conducting the first 5G holographic call. We are delighted to become the first mobile company in the UK to share some of our spectrum to extend rural coverage.

“By offering some of our 4G spectrum to StrattoOpencell, we are helping to extend fast and reliable mobile network access for people in rural communities. Mobile connectivity in rural areas is just as important as it is for those in towns and cities, which is why we continue to work with others to help improve rural connectivity for all.”

Spectrum-sharing

The move comes after Ofcom announced new rules in July, which allow spectrum-sharing in four bands to make it easier for businesses and local service providers to build and operate networks.

Philip Marnick, Group Director, Spectrum, Ofcom, commented, “Our new sharing approach aims to help more people access the airwaves they need to create local networks around the UK, including improving connections in rural areas. Vodafone and StrattoOpencell are the first to take advantage of this.

"We look forward to seeing how others use our new spectrum access approach to support innovation and enable local communities to have better connections.”

Neutral host

Stratto and Opencell were acquired by global investment firm Digital Colony and merged in 2018 to form StrattoOpencell, combining small cells with distributed antenna products and architecture to enable neutral host in-building connectivity as a service.

StrattoOpencell is Digital Colony’s first investment in the UK and is part of its broader plan to create an integrated digital infrastructure platform with towers, small cells, fibre networks and data centres as The Freshwave Group. 

Graham Payne, CEO of The Digital Colony UK Infrastructure Platform, commented, “There remains a digital divide in connectivity options for those in UK’s urban centres and more rural areas. We are delighted to join forces with Vodafone to bring a fresh approach to close this gap. We are pioneering new solutions and services as part of our neutral host approach to UK digital infrastructure, in order to connect more people and businesses to reliable networks.

"This new model takes the industry a significant step closer to enabling ubiquitous UK connectivity.”