Vodafone going underground to fit micro-antennas

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Vodafone will place small antennas underground as it looks to improve LTE coverage in busy UK cities.

It will install antennas onto manhole covers, requiring no street works or construction, or affecting the surrounding environment with masts. The antennas will be connected to Vodafone's fibre network.

Vodafone said the ultimate goal is to upgrade the antennas to 5G in the coming years and improve 4G coverage between now and then.

It said the infrastructure would underpin smart cities, helping nearby traffic lights to be connected and redirect vehicles to avoid congestion, help councils schedule repairs for the likes of street lights, and help monitor energy consumption.

Manhole cover antennas have already been installed at its Newbury headquarters and technology centre and provide coverage across a 200 metre radius.

Work is also underway in installing small LTE antennas at traditional phone boxes. Princes Street in Edinburgh will be the first antenna to be switched on and another example of how infrastructure can be improved without affecting its surroundings.

Vodafone UK Chief Executive Nick Jeffery said: “We are committed to providing customers with the best network possible by drawing on our strengths in innovation and strong UK heritage. It is great to be able to use yesterday’s infrastructure - from phone boxes to manhole covers – to deliver the services of tomorrow.  This is one of the ways we are extending our 4G services to areas other networks cannot reach, and getting ready for 5G.”

In September, O2 and Three UK found a fresh source of fibre in the UK's sewer systems, thanks to a new partnership with fibre provider SSE Enterprise Telecoms.