Broadband News

Poor mobile signal solution via Open Sure Signal from Vodafone

The Sure Signal boxes from Vodafone have been a boon to people who have flaky mobile reception on the Vodafone mobile network in their home or business, but it has always been held back by the need to register the mobile number. The launch of a community wide Open Sure Signal by Vodafone is changing all this.

The new Open Sure Signal is small external device generally mounted near the roof line of a building and has a much greater range of up to 500 metres compared to the indoor devices. Crucially any Vodafone connected device will be able to use the service and thus make use of phone calls or 3G data services in areas where 3G or even 2G services are not available.

The older Sure Signal boxes are a simple purchase which you can plug in and use, but Vodafone is looking for 'village champions' and locations to host the new units which require a stable 4 Mbps broadband connection to operate.

Looking at the impact of the existing Sure Signal on a broadband connection indicates that each call uses around 70 Kbps of data in each direction, and 3G data connections appear to top out at around 3 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload even when the underlying broadband connection is several times faster. The varying data use means that ideally the Open Sure Signal is best running on a fairly lightly used broadband connection, or if a local shop provides Wi-Fi adding the Sure Signal is another way of attracting people to the vicinity.

One of the problems many rural campaigners will quickly raise is that fixed line broadband speeds are often worst in areas without 3G reception, so the Sure Signal may not have enough speed to operate and no doubt there will be villages where this is the case, but the situation has improved greatly in the last 18 months. Working to the ONS definitions of what is a rural postcode we have analysed our speed tester results and can reveal that rural areas have seen median speeds climb from 6.5 Mbps download (0.7 Mbps upload - March 2013) to 11.6 Mbps download (1 Mbps upload - August 2014). This is still behind the major urban areas of the UK which currently manage a median download of 20.5 Mbps (2.7 Mbps upload).

The bottleneck for the Open Sure Signal with respect to phone calls is the upload side of things, though as more villages get FTTC we can expect to see the median upload speed climbing and this being less of an issue.


I'm surprised they haven't tried partnering with a major ISP to bundle this kind of tech into the ISP supplied modem. Blanket the country in picocells.

  • Kushan
  • over 6 years ago

Provide us with free backhaul for our cell sites because we don't want to expand our network at our own expense plz!!!

  • rtho782
  • over 6 years ago

Before anyone embarks on this, they should first establish whether it will work with their broadband network. The Vodafone Sure Signal (VSS) is a horrible fudge (not) supported by people who appear to have very limited networking skills and knowledge. If it works out of the box, then ok; if not, you will spend endless time trying to get the IPSec tunnel to work.

  • gah789
  • over 6 years ago

The notion is good, it could have been better if Ofcom had supported calls that a fraction of the 4G 2.6Ghz spectrum was set aside for all operators to use in this manner. UK FEMTO and PICO radio engineering community have plenty of expertise so the CPE could have been readied. Rural users benefitting from FTTC could have T&C amended to supported some bandwidth allocated to support what will be more useful than PST.

  • ValueforMoney
  • over 6 years ago

Ah, memories of Hutchinson Rabbit... :-)

  • tmcr
  • over 6 years ago

Agreed the current VSS is a bodge, the MTU issues alone can be a nightmare. I do think its very cheeky of Vodafone to simply assume that someone else is going to pick up the bill for the backhaul. with the VSS it was a bit different, as you were benefiting directly. It has been commented elsewhere that what Voda are asking is no different to offering free WIFI in a pub, but it is different, customers are paying for their voda service, if coverage is missing somewhere voda should be not only supplying the equipment, but the backhaul as well,(as they would for any normal basestation)

  • fasthorsedog1
  • over 6 years ago

Surely the best solution is Unlicensed Mobile Access (or GAN) over Wi-Fi. Why try and emulate a small cell tower with another box that requires Vodafone to keep track of where exactly they are due to licensing of the spectrum they use. Implemented correctly UMA is seamless, and the specs were drawn up almost 10 years ago. Vodafone already has an app that throws you onto Wi-Fi for data if it sees a BT Wi-Fi point in range, why not just move to UMA?

  • philipd
  • over 6 years ago

to be fair to Vodafone, the Rural Open Sure Signal pack seems to imply that they will pick up the broadband cost (a dedicated line), but the landlord / owner of the building will pay the power (approx £30 per year).

I've had VSS for a while - it took a fair bit of setting up in the early days, but nowadays it "just works". If they are putting in a dedicated line for this then there shouldn't be the issue of whether it works with your broadband provider.

  • afrance
  • over 6 years ago

@philipd UMA was a great solution and worked great. But it never had any support from most of the handset manufacturers other than blackberry and a few nokia handsets.

What should replace UMA is IMS with Volte and Vowifi which while it does still require support in the handset it looks like being supported by most manuafacturers.

  • alanframe
  • over 6 years ago

I use Three's In Touch app which works fine using my wi-fi connection to send/receive calls and texts from home. I can't get a reliable Three mobile signal at home so this means I can now use my mobile when at home. Don't know the technology this uses. I've also used Vodafones Sure Signaal in the past but I wasn't happy with the reliability of it especially after payning £100 for the unit.

  • phit03
  • over 6 years ago

UMA only works at the radio level and was only ever implemented on some blackberry's (was bit iffy on some routers) i was very surprised that 3 never bothered with UMA with blackberry's and Wifi calling that's used on android phones

Orange phones only use Wifi calling now, so does 3 now but try to block Root users from using it witch is a slight annoyance (2 words root cloak, but you need to get the right one) but does not help users who are not rooted but get marked as rooted

  • leexgx
  • over 6 years ago

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