Vodafone turns old phone boxes into 4G hubs along Cornish coast

Dog and bone: Vodafone is converting old phone boxes into 4G hubs

Disused phone boxes have been transformed to provide 4G mobile connections for beachgoers in Cornwall who have long struggled with little coverage.

Visitors to Polzeath and Sennen Cove will be able to benefit from faster mobile internet and improved voice call reception service when they are within a 200-metre radius of Vodafone’s 4G phone boxes.

Mobile coverage remains a problem for remote and coastal areas of the UK, due to challenging land surfaces and lack of fibre cables needed to link up masts.

Polzeath beach
Polzeath beach (Matt Cardy/PA)

Last year, watchdog Ofcom said 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% of premises in urban homes and offices from all operators, while 83% have access to complete 4G coverage.

In contrast, only 41% 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% surge in internet traffic.

Vodafone is also testing 4G in phone boxes around Edinburgh and Oxford (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

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.”

Chris Price
For latest tech stories go to TechDigest.tv