Vodafone switches on first self-powered phone masts in the UK

(Image credit: ALEXANDER VINER)

Vodafone has switched on the UK’s first ‘self-powering’ mobile phone mast in Wales, claiming the technology will make it easier to bring coverage to rural areas and make its network more sustainable.

The operator has been working with Crossflow Energy on the design for more than two years and the site in Pembrokeshire combines a wind turbine that can operator in even light winds.

This particular site is connected to the national grid, but Vodafone says future masts could be entirely independent of a centralised electricity supply, with power sources such as solar used as a backup option.  

Vodafone self-powered mast

The company claims future masts could be installed without needing to dig trenches or lay electricity cables, reducing impact on the local environment. 

On top of that, the masts are mostly quiet and can be ‘filtered out’ as a solid objects by radar, birds, and bats so it is easily avoided by wildlife.  

The availability of power is one of the most important factors in deployment, meaning the technology can transform the economics and practicalities of rural network rollouts. Meanwhile, energy consumption is one of the biggest expenses for mobile operators, while it is also one of the biggest causes of emissions.

Vodafone has already switched to renewable energy to be more sustainable, but believes its new ‘eco-masts’ can address the twin challenges of climate change and rural connectivity.

“Connectivity is vital to everyone, no matter where you live,” said Andrea Dona, chief network officer and development director at Vodafone UK. “This self-powering mobile phone mast, with on-site battery storage, could help us connect places that were previously impossible to reach. It will also help us reduce carbon emissions and minimise our impact on local environments.

“If this trial is a success, we would like to roll out more ‘self-powering’ masts, with a focus on areas with poor or no coverage.”

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.