The mobile operator is calling for 12 rural communities to take part in the trial that will start in early 2012 and build on a pilot Vodafone has been running in the village of East Garston in West Berkshire. Vodafone says it is looking for local politicians, communities and the government to work with it to improve mobile Internet access in underserved areas.
Vodafone will test what it calls "open femto" technology, which allows any mobile user onto the femtocell when they are in range of the device. This compares with a "closed" femto approach that is typically used for residential femtocell services, whereby a user must be registered on the device to be able to use it.
Vodafone will also use facilities and backhaul capacity from BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA) for these trials. Some of the femtos will be located on BT Openreach telephone poles or in payphone boxes.
Why this matters
This is a new twist on femtos for the U.K. market, but it has been part of Vodafone's vision for these small cells for years. The operator has various femto trials and commercial services in nine markets, ranging from residential to enterprise, as well as public areas, such as in shopping malls and Vodafone's own stores.
The U.K. government has pledged £150 million (US$240 million) to extend mobile coverage in the country, so it is possible that some of this funding could be used for projects such as an open femto deployment like the one Vodafone will trial next year. However, Vodafone says it will fund these trials and it is not clear yet how the funds earmarked by the government will be allocated.
Vodafone is the femto industry's biggest supporter and here's a look back at their femto frolics.
- Vodafone's Femto Empire
- Vodafone Dreams of Metro Femto
- Backhaul Clouds Metro Femto Vision
- Femto Watch: Vodafone Expands Footprint
- Femto Watch: Vodafone Means Business in Spain
- Vodafone Revs Femto Engine
- Operators Reveal Femto Realities
- Vodafone UK 'Hacked via Femto'
— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Light Reading Mobile