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Manhole covers to boost 4G and 5G connectivity

Vodafone has plans to install 4G and 5G equipment underneath thousands of manhole covers across the UK to boost connection speeds in busy urban areas.

 The demand for data has caused mobile traffic to grow by 1 per cent per week, and in densely populated areas such as London and Manchester, up to 1.5 per cent, according to Vodafone statistics.

The equipment will be attached to the underside of thousands of Victorian-era manhole covers, and is an ideal solution to improving 4G connectivity across areas of great beauty, while causing minimal disruption. 

Vodafone will use street furniture - such as telephone boxes and street lamps - to install small antennae that will improve 4G coverage and provide 5G in the future. The equipped phone boxes will boost connectivity in rural or remote areas where a mobile mast is difficult to install as they rely on a power supply and fibre optic cable connections.

The fibre-connected 5G-enabled ‘small cells’ can also form foundation on which to build smart cities. For example, 5G connectivity will allow connected traffic lights instantly to reroute road traffic around congestion. The antennae from a manhole cover can boost the signal across a 200-metre radius.

Vodafone have already begun the installation of their fibre connected antennas throughout Princes Street, Edinburgh, in time for their New Year’s Eve celebrations.

“It is great to be able to use yesterday’s infrastructure – from phone boxes to manhole covers – to deliver the services of tomorrow,” said Vodafone UK chief executive, Nick Jeffery. “This is one of the ways we are extending our 4G services to areas other networks cannot reach, and getting ready for 5G.”