Vodafone has announced it is investing in the South West by expanding its services in two Cornish locations.

Newquay’s Fistral Beach and St Keverne on the Lizard Peninsula can now enjoy Vodafone 4G mobile internet, thanks to Vodafone's 4G technology called OpenRAN.

The two Cornwall sites are only the second and third Vodafone OpenRAN sites to go live in the UK; and hundreds more rural communities in the South West are set to benefit from the technology by 2027.

OpenRAN technology allows telecoms operators to change the way they build and manage networks, making it more flexible and cost-efficient.

In the future, the company said, this will benefit Vodafone’s customers in rural communities, as well as helping Vodafone improve the network’s energy efficiency.

Other Vodafone initiatives in the South West region are also hoping to bring benefits to communities and businesses.

Vodafone 5G is now available in Plymouth and on the Isles of Scilly; improved coverage along the A30 – from West London to Land’s End – means 4G is now available on over 99% of the route; and the forthcoming installation of a 5G mobile private network (MPN) at Plymouth Sound will look to enable businesses and academics to incorporate connectivity within product research and development.

In addition, Vodafone Foundation has donated £360,000 to the award-winning PK Porthcurno museum over the last three years.

Originally a telegraph station site for Cable & Wireless, it is located next to the beach where the first undersea telegraph cable arrived in the UK in 1870.

Despite being the UK’s premium staycation location, the Office of National Statistics ranks the South West one of the areas most impacted by the Digital Divide and 20 of its neighbourhoods are in the 10% most deprived locations in the UK.

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Vodafone said that as part of its commitment to tackle digital exclusion across the UK, it was announcing a partnership with charity partner Good Things Foundation to donate free mobile connectivity for a year to 15 community organisations across the South West giving local residents a hub where they can get online for free.

This follows Vodafone’s schools.connected programme, which distributed 350,000 SIMs to schools and colleges across the UK, including more than 20,000 to the South West.

The emergency package helped pupils who couldn’t access education from home because they didn’t have access to connectivity.

Helen Milner, Chief Executive at Good Things Foundation, said: "COVID 19 and a year of lockdown, shielding and self-isolation has shown just how important being connected is.

"People who are offline are missing out on access to online services, health information and the important chance to connect with friends and family.

"We’re delighted to be working with Vodafone to help people across the South West get online by providing free connectivity to community organisations, who are a vital resource in ensuring people to get and stay connected."

Andrea Dona, Chief Network Officer at Vodafone UK, said: "Our roots in Cornwall and the South West go back a long way.

"From our investment in and around historic Porthcurno to brand new OpenRAN technology being installed at Fistral Beach and St Keverne, we are committed to investing in Cornwall and connecting its people and businesses.

"It’s brilliant to see Vodafone is using its tech and connectivity to help tackle the digital divide in the South West where we are providing free connectivity to community and youth centres across the region in partnership with Good Things Foundation."