Friday 12 July 2024
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Council uses bin lorries to map strongest phone signal streets in Nottinghamshire

Pioneering new research is set to map at street level where the strongest mobile phone signals are in Nottinghamshire.

This comes after the completion of one of the biggest, continuous mobile data-collection exercises the county has ever seen.

After securing funding in 2022, Nottinghamshire County Council has been leading the ambitious project, known as Digital Pathfinders, working with all seven local district and borough councils as well as Birmingham City University.

For the last two years, more than seven million sets of mobile signal data have been tracked and collected – all with the help of the humble bin lorry.

At the same time household waste and recycling was being collected, so were millions of sets of real-time mobile phone data, making the most of resources.

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Comprehensively covering the county’s thousands of streets, local council bin collection lorries took it in turns to be fitted with a special monitoring device to help map mobile phone signals, namely 4G and 5G.  No personal data was collected, just the strength of the signals from different providers.

Full analysis of this data is now planned by the county council in the coming months, with public maps also to be created later this summer, so residents and businesses can find which of the UK’s main providers (EE,02, Vodafone and Three) offer high-speed (4G and 5G) mobile phone signals in their neighbourhood.

Emma Branston from the county council’s digital team has been leading the project.

She explains why this data collection project was so vital.

She said: “Current mobile phone coverage data doesn’t always accurately reflect the reality at street level, as there’s evidence that coverage can vary within the same village or neighbourhood.

“This innovative, best value approach offers us the chance to now map out a far more accurate, street-by-street picture of Nottinghamshire’s mobile phone network.

“It also paves the way to getting our county even better connected as it will help us to identify where improvements and action are needed, especially in rural areas where there may be potential gaps in coverage.

“We know how important it is to be as digitally connected as possible to benefit local businesses and the economy and particularly for communities, who rely on having strong mobile phone signals for their work, education and leisure time.”

Birmingham City University was selected as the academic partner for the project and designed the device and software used to track mobile phone data.

Raouf Abozariba, senior lecturer in network and cyber security at the university, said:

“Through using advanced automation techniques, computer engineering, and effective collaboration with Nottinghamshire County Council and the local councils which oversee refuse collection, the project has shown that such digital mega-studies are financially, technically, and operationally feasible.

“Our monitoring devices, which were built from the ground up at the university’s 5G lab, were designed to perform accurate 4G and 5G coverage testing with no additional carbon emissions, helping to build state-of-the-art radio environment maps.”

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