Vodafone 4G Mini Mast delivers 200Mbps to rural areas

Vodafone has installed a ‘4G mini mast’ in Cornwall which it says will help speed up the deployment of superfast LTE networks in rural areas.

The mast is just eight metres high at its tallest point – half the size of a standard mast – and can be painted to blend in with its surroundings, meaning it also satisfies local environmental considerations. It also does not require a large cabinet to host power supply and electrical equipment.

Installation takes just six months, which is a third of the time it takes for a normal mast, something which should help operators rapidly expand their infrastructure to more rural areas.

Rural 4G coverage

The first location is Porthcurno, on the southern Cornish coast, which is in an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and has struggled to achieve a consistent voice signal in the past. Residents can now access speeds of up to 200Mbps.

Vodafone believes the technology could be used to connect rural hotels, leisure and retail parks, and tourist attractions, incentivising customers to make a visit.

“We’re working hard to connect customers across the UK and our new mini mast will help provide 4G in places where other networks struggle to reach, while minimising the visual and environmental impact,” said Scott Petty, Vodafone CTO. “It forms part of our major investment in our network and services to provide our customers reliable coverage where they live, work and travel.”

EE has committed to delivering 4G to 95 percent of the UK landmass by 2020, but all four UK mobile operators are investing to expand coverage. There have however been complaints that planning laws have made it difficult and expensive to install infrastructure and one mast builder withdrew from a village because authorities couldn’t decide what colour the mast should be.

Innovations such as drones, balloons, and now mini-masts will help bring faster mobile speeds to areas starved of connectivity.

“This new mast offers the opportunity to reduce the visual impact of phone masts, whilst addressing people's desire for improved connectivity,” added Derek Thomas, MP for West Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.