Press Release | 27 Jul 2023

Parish churches come to the fore in the fight against mobile not-spots

Vodafone, Net CS and The Church of England join together to roll out 11 church-based mobile sites using innovative OpenRAN technologies.

Mobile coverage services specialist Net CS has partnered with Vodafone to install new mobile technology in 11 Church of England parish churches across the UK to provide strong and reliable 4G coverage to the nearby rural communities.

The first two churches, the Blessed Virgin Mary in Brompton Regis, Somerset, and St Michael’s & All Angels in Ewyas Harold, Herefordshire, are now live. A further nine sites are planned to go live in the coming months.

Churches have long been seen as an important part of delivering mobile coverage to rural and urban areas, often located in central, elevated sites within a community. The 11 sites will deliver Vodafone 4G to areas which have historically struggled to receive good quality and reliable mobile coverage.

The project has been made possible through innovative mobile technology called OpenRAN, which is a radio access network system that allows interoperation between cellular network equipment provided by different vendors. Some of the many benefits are that OpenRAN installations occupy a smaller physical footprint and require less power than traditional single-vendor systems. Net CS has designed the church installations using a neutral host format, so they can be connected to multiple network operators.

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UK-based Net CS has an in-depth knowledge of deploying coverage in a church environment, including the care that must be taken with heritage assets such as ancient church buildings.

Vodafone was the first UK operator to commit to a large-scale OpenRAN roll-out programme as part of its work to improve its 5G and 4G mobile coverage across the UK and close the UK’s digital divide.

This roll-out follows the announcement of the planned combination of Vodafone UK and Three UK, which will give the two companies the scale required to invest £11 billion over the next decade to create Europe’s leading 5G network and create jobs in all nations and regions.

Vodafone deploys OpenRAN in urban locations in European first

OpenRAN masts in Exmouth and Torquay will be delivered thanks to Vodafone's partnerships with Dell, Intel, Samsung, Wind River, and Capgemini.

Andrea Dona, Network and Development Director, Vodafone UK, said: “Churches are typically very tall, on high ground and close to the community we’re trying to connect. This makes them the perfect place to install a mobile site, and now we’ve developed technology that’s small enough not to spoil the appearance of the church.

“Our aim is to use this cutting-edge technology to improve mobile coverage in as many rural locations as possible. This is an important step in ensuring rural communities can enjoy all the benefits of mobile connectivity.” 

The Bishop of St Albans, Alan Smith, said: “This project is an example of the many ways churches benefit their local communities. As well as delivering better mobile coverage, the improved connectivity achieved through these new church-based sites helps combat the social justice issue of poor connectivity which affects many residents in rural areas.

“The key consideration for us has always been the wishes of local communities, who have been widely supportive of these new sites. Net CS, our infrastructure facilitator, ensures that the new installations are unobtrusive, safe for our congregations and the wider community, and will deliver benefits to church users and the whole community.”

Peter Morrell-Brown, Chairman, Net CS, said: “This project clearly demonstrates the value of churches as a key part of the nationwide solution to mobile not-spots. OpenRAN has made a lot of these sites viable for the first time, providing new locations that could go a long way towards driving better rural and urban coverage across the country.”

“We see this project as just the beginning of the growth of church-based mobile coverage sites – the infrastructure that we’re putting in place is available for use by any operator, potentially solving a significant part of the UK’s mobile coverage challenge.”

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Notes to editors

The 11 churches involved in the programme are:

  • The Blessed Virgin Mary, Brompton Regis, Somerset
  • St Michael’s and All Angels, Ewyas Harold, Hereford
  • St Mary, Elsing, Norfolk
  • St Mary & St Bartholomew, Cranborne, Dorset
  • St Thomas of Canterbury, Thorverton, Devon
  • St Cyr and Julitta, Newton St Cyres, Devon
  • St Mary the Virgin, Martham, Norfolk
  • All Saints, Broad Chalke, Wiltshire
  • St Nicolas, Elmdon, Essex
  • All Saints, Croxton, Norfolk
  • St Michael and All Angels, Whitwell, Norfolk

The proposed merger between Vodafone UK and Three UK will create Europe’s leading 5G network, supporting the Government’s 5G ambitions, driving digital transformation, creating jobs and bringing faster speeds and better coverage to every corner of the country.

Merger of Vodafone UK and Three UK to create one of Europe's leading 5G networks

Vodafone Group and CH Hutchison Group Telecom Holdings Ltd., owner of Three UK, have agreed to combine their UK businesses.

Vodafone UK and Three UK have also committed to closing the rural divide faster by delivering 4G to 95% of the UK in their first year as a combined company – exceeding the Government’s SRN target. By 2034, they have also committed to rolling out 5G Standalone to 95% of rural areas.

About Net CS

Net CS is one of the UK’s leading providers of mobile coverage services to Mobile Network Operators, businesses and landlords. Started in 2004, the business has overseen the deployment of thousands of indoor and outdoor mobile coverage solutions across the country on behalf of the mobile operators, major landlords and businesses.

As well as offering mobile coverage services, Net CS has unique partnerships with the Church of England and the Church in Wales and the Canals and Rivers Trust. These arrangements give it access to more than 20,000 prime locations for mobile coverage deployments, making it a key player in supporting national efforts to improve mobile phone coverage.

Headquartered in Camberley, UK, the company employs 75 staff.

About Vodafone UK

Vodafone UK is a technology communications company that connects people, businesses and devices to help our customers benefit from digital innovation. Our services span mobile, fixed-line connections, home and office broadband, and the Internet of Things (IoT).

We have a strong track record as a tech pioneer, making the UK’s first mobile phone call, sending the first text message, and making the UK’s first live holographic call using 5G in 2018. We were the first to start carrying live 5G traffic from a site in Salford, Greater Manchester and now have 5G in locations across Germany, Ireland, Italy, Spain as well as the UK. Meanwhile, our 4G network coverage currently reaches over 99% of the UK population.

Today, Vodafone serves more than 18 million mobile and fixed-line customers in the UK. Vodafone is the largest provider of full fibre in the UK – our superfast broadband services are now available to nearly 12 million homes across the UK.

Sustainability is also at the heart of what we do: as of 1 July 2021, 100% of the grid electricity we use in the UK is certified to be from renewable sources.

For more information about Vodafone UK, please visit:

Vodafone UK Media Relations

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Twitter: @VodafoneUKNews


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