Vodafone launches UK’s first live ‘self-powered’ mobile phone mast

Vodafone has activated what it says is a trial of the UK’s first wind and solar powered mobile phone mast in Pembrokeshire, Wales, bringing 4G coverage to the community of Eglwyswrw.

The company first announced in November 2021 that it was developing autonomous mobile towers to not only extend the reach of its network, but also to offer new services while reducing energy consumption in its future networks, supporting its goal of reaching net zero for UK operations by 2027. Globally in 21 countries, Vodafone is committing to halving its supply chain emissions by 2030, before achieve net zero across its entire value chain by 2040.

And in September 2021, Vodafone announced that it was using a “game-changing” power solution from Ericsson for 5G network equipment to reduce planned power consumption in its future network. The new 5G radio unit is said to be 43% more energy efficient than its legacy equivalent.

The purpose-built Wales mast, which the operator says could remove the need for a connection to the national power grid, is also part of its stated ambition to help the UK’s mobile industry reach 95 % of UK landmass coverage by 2025 providing mobile connectivity. to “non-spots” in the most remote and inaccessible places in the country.

Vodafone believes that bringing mobile and internet services to rural communities helps boost the local economy, combat isolation and reduce the rural digital divide. He said that to date, building pylons in “non-spots” of coverage without an existing power connection has been a significant financial and logistical challenge.

The “self-powered” mast incorporates what is said to be a unique wind turbine of specialist in renewable energy technologies Crossflow Energy which can generate power even in light winds. The mast is said to be able to be installed without the need to dig trenches and lay electrical cables, making it quicker and easier to install and reducing the impact on the local environment.

Vodafone also considers the mast to be “extremely quiet”, making it viable for sensitive sites such as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and can also be “screened out” as a solid object by speed cameras, birds and bats -mice, so it is easily avoided, making it less harmful to wildlife.

In partnership with Crossflow Energy and Cornerstone Mobile Infrastructure PartnerVodafone will operate the mast for two years and will use the data collected during the deployment to help it optimize the technology and determine the most suitable sites for these masts.

To ensure local people stay connected while the ‘self-powered’ mast is being tested, Vodafone has retrofitted an existing mast site which is connected to the national power grid. The mast will be mainly powered by green energy produced on site but can be “recharged” by grid electricity if necessary. In the future, for remote sites without a national grid connection, another power source will be required as a backup. Vodafone is exploring a range of options.

“Connectivity is vital for everyone, no matter where you live,” said Andrea Dona, network manager and chief development officer at Vodafone. “This self-powered mobile phone mast, with on-site battery storage, could help us connect places that were previously inaccessible. It will also help us reduce carbon emissions and minimize our impact on local environments. If this trial is a success, we would like to deploy more self-powered masts, focusing on areas with little or no coverage.”

Crossflow Energy CEO Martin Barnes added: “We are extremely pleased to partner with Vodafone for this UK first. Until now, the use of “small wind turbines” in the race to net zero has been limited due to performance, reliability and scheduling issues, such as noise, vibration and damage to the ecology. Our unique wind turbine design meets all of these challenges head-on. We believe that one day its use could be as widespread and commonplace as solar panels.

Rhys Phillip, Chairman and CEO of Cornerstone, said: “As the UK’s tower leader, we are proud to be involved in this historic project, driving innovation to create scalable and sustainable connectivity solutions. . We look forward to continuing our collaboration in our journey towards environmentally friendly site designs. »

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