Vodafone will connect 100 rural towns in the UK without mobile coverage to 3G, as it rolls out its Sure Signal programme across the country.
The operator first launched the technology in 2011, trialling it across 12 communities in England, Scotland and Wales. The operator installs a range of signal boosters across a town, using open femto technology, which allows any of its customers in range to connect to Vodafone's network. The boxes use existing broadband services to deliver a mobile signal.
According to the latest figures from the UK regulator Ofcom, from last year, 79.7 percent of premises across the UK can get a mobile phone signal from all four operators. When measured geographically, however, this figure drops down to 21 percent.
As well as Vodafone, O2 and EE have both promised to bring 4G to cover 98 percent of the UK's population by the end of this year.
Towns can apply directly to the operator, with the closing date for entries in October. Vodafone said it hopes to have the first communities connected by the end of this year.
Jeroen Hoencamp, Vodafone UK Chief Executive, commented: “This is an opportunity for people to make a real difference to their community and to be part of our commitment to close the digital divide between rural and urban areas. Bringing mobile coverage and mobile internet to rural areas gives communities a real boost – both economically and socially.”
Aside from the Sure Signal project, Vodafone is spending more than €1.25 billion on its UK network and services during 2014, bringing 4G coverage to 259 cities. It spent more than €1 billion last year buying spectrum in the UK's 4G auction.