Your network coverage
Without a signal from a nearby mast, the mobile phones that so many of us rely on simply won’t work. A mobile phone mast is low-powered and the coverage it can provide is limited – as little as one mile in a built up area, maybe two miles in the countryside. To provide a seamless service as customers move around, a mobile communications network needs a large number of masts across the country.
Our network is made up of more than 14,000 radio base stations that receive and transmit calls and data across the UK. We like to share base station sites with other network operators wherever possible and we have a particularly strong relationship with Teléfonica UK, better known as O2. We’re working together on a major, country-wide programme to create a modern national grid of 17,500 sites. This makes good environmental and commercial sense; it reduces the environmental and visual impact of our network and the cost of building new sites. Sharing in this way sometimes makes the mast marginally taller but it does mean we don’t need to build a second site in the same area.
Working with communities
We talk to the relevant authorities and, if appropriate, to local residents when we need to build a new site. If they’re worried about potential health effects, we can guide them to independent information. If they’re worried about the location or the visual impact of a mast, we’ll try to reach a compromise where possible. Unfortunately, moving the site of a mast doesn’t always solve the problem. It might mean other residents in the new location are concerned, but we’ll always consider alternative options.
We always follow recognised best-practice principles. These include the UK Government’s Code of Best Practice on Mobile Phone Network Development in England and Wales and the Ten Commitments to Best Siting Practice.
Vodafone UK and O2 - working together
In 2012, Vodafone UK and O2 announced plans to form a UK grid of around 17,500 joint base stations by sharing sites. This new grid provides service for our customers and those of O2, while retaining our own independent spectrum, core network and competing services.
Eventually, we should be able to reduce the overall number of sites we and O2 will need. Any new sites needed to provide coverage in remote and rural areas will be built jointly.
For more about our network, go to Vodafone Social, the official Vodafone UK blog.
Bringing 3G coverage to rural areas
Mobile operators sometimes struggle to provide coverage in rural areas by traditional means. This could be because of the geography of the area or difficulty getting planning permission for traditional full-scale masts. Through our Rural Open Sure Signal (#ROSS100) project, we’re bringing Vodafone 3G mobile coverage to villages that previously couldn’t get a signal.
We’re using our own femtocell technology to achieve this – small signal base stations roughly the size of a box of breakfast cereal. They can be installed on village halls, pubs, shops and homes across the community, providing local 3G coverage.
In 2013/ and 2014 we worked with rural communities and their local MPs to carry out successful trials in 12 villages across the UK. In July 2014 we launched #ROSS100 nationally with the aim of bringing 3G coverage to 100 more communities.
You can find out more on the Vodafone Social blog
Mobiles and health
Mobile phones use radio frequency (RF) fields to send and receive calls and data. These RF signals are transmitted to the nearest base station, which connects the mobile phone to the network.
Many other everyday household appliances also generate RF fields including TVs, radios and baby monitors. We know that some people are concerned that there might be an impact on health. However, there is no substantiated evidence to prove a link between RF fields and health if the RF fields are operating within the normal safeguards. We make sure that all our mobile phones and masts are designed to operate within the guidelines set by the International Commission on Non Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP)
In fact, in areas where the public have access, RF from our masts is typically between hundreds and many thousands of times below the guideline levels recommended by ICNRIP. These guidelines already include a precautionary safety margin.
Anyone who is concerned about the health effects of mobile phones and masts might find this information from the World Health Organisation helpful.
More information is also available on the Vodafone Group website at:
All but the smallest of network developments needs planning permission and we work with local authorities to ensure our masts are fully compliant. If a local planning authority believes that a development is in breach of planning laws, it might issue an enforcement notice that means we have to put things right. In 2013/14 we received two enforcement notices. In one case, we exceeded the six months we were allowed for temporary siting of a development when the permanent one was delayed. In the second case we received an enforcement to remove a piece of equipment from a site after our requirements changed.
Vodafone is party to Ofcom’s Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Nuisance Calls (Technical Measures). This MoU between Ofcom and nine other communication providers establishes a framework for co-operation on technical measures between the operators. It sets out how we’ll work together to achieve the common goal of reducing the impact of unlawful nuisance calls on consumers.
Read the Ofcom Nuisance Calls (Technical Measures) Memorandum of Understanding in full.