With such a vast land mass to cover, much of it in arid areas Australia has many black spots in terms of coverage for mobile users. Vodafone is looking into options for regional customers with these issues with a successful trial of their Regional Coverage Hub.
The Regional Coverage Hub appears to be a smaller scale Femtocell which attaches to a customers broadband connection to offer 4G voice and data services as well as IoT coverage in areas where service is ‘patchy’.
Vodafone is trialling the devices, recently concluding a six-week trial on a potato farm in Ballarat in Victoria owned by local farmer Scott Dimond, where, using two Regional Hub devices, Vodafone covered an eight square kilometre area with 4G Service.
Vodafone sees the release of the device as a way to provide more choice for customers in regional areas. Vodafone’s Chief Technology Officer Kevin Millroy said
Farmers face a particularly big challenge without reliable mobile coverage across their properties. The ability to make a call and access emails while working, let alone the opportunity to adopt new services and applications, just isn’t there without reliable coverage.
The device measuring 30cm long, 25cm high and 10 cm wide is about twice the size of a standard modem, with Vodafone advising that the unit can be self-installed on a roof or exterior wall, with only a connection to power and an existing broadband connection required. Customers will have to pay for data used to make the calls in line with their contract.
It’s not quite ready for sale as yet, with Vodafone looking to release the device in the second half of 2019 with pricing to be determined closer to launch, though Vodafone has said they aim to ‘make it affordable as possible to it can be easily taken up by regional customers’.