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Vodafone trials off-grid phone masts in push to net zero

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Different types of 4G, 5G and data radio relay antennas for mobile phone networks are pictured on a relay mast operated by Vodafone in Berlin, Germany April 8, 2019.     REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch
Vodafone's new tech is self-powered and will be deployed across the UK if the trial is successful. Photo: Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters

Vodafone (VOD.L) has developed and is trialling an off-grid mobile phone tower, a development which could help the telecoms giant hit net zero by 2027.

The new tech is self-powered and will be deployed across the UK if the trial is successful.

The so-called "Eco-Towers" will also enable the deployment of new mobile sites in the most remote locations, without the major challenge and cost of connecting to the electricity grid.

For the last two years, Vodafone and Crossflow Energy have been working together on the development of Crossflow Energy’s unique and innovative wind turbine technology, combined with the latest in solar and battery technologies, to create a self-powered mobile network tower.

“Our approach to managing our network as responsibly as possible is very simple: we put sustainability at the heart of every decision," said Andrea Dona, chief network officer, Vodafone UK.

"There is no silver bullet to reducing energy consumption, but each of these steps forward takes us closer to achieving net zero for its UK operations by 2027.”

Vodafone, alongside network partner Cornerstone, will now run a proof of concept to install Crossflow Turbine technology on rural mobile sites.

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Vodafone says that the use of locally generated renewable power reduces the environmental impact of the site. Alongside this, the increased renewable contribution from wind and solar together with battery storage systems on site removes reliance on diesel generators for back-up power.

On-site power generation that is independent from the electricity grid also improves security of supply.

Vodafone said that globally, across 21 countries, the company will halve its emissions in its supply chain by 2030, before reaching net zero across its full value chain by 2040.

Other net zero initiatives by Vodafone have included a trial with Ericsson using drones and Lidar-based 3D technology. With drones collecting high-definition imagery and Lidar technology collecting data to help build a 3D digital twin model, now only specialist operators need to travel to sites for surveys.

With the imagery and 3D digital twin, radio engineers and network design teams can work in a virtual environment, saving time and money, speeding up network deployment across the UK, while also helping Vodafone reduce its carbon footprint, the telecoms company said.

Watch: Clean energy transition: why is it taking so long?