Vodafone Sure Signal £160
13th Aug 2010 | 11:26
Boost your Vodafone 3G signal using the power of your broadband
Vodafone Sure Signal: Overview
Ever got frustrated by weak mobile signals in your house or workplace? Us too. Now Vodafone has a plug-in router-alike solution – the Vodafone Sure Signal - that means you won't ever again have to crane your head out of a top floor window to get decent in-home coverage.
The Vodafone Sure Signal is effectively a 3G mobile phone signal booster that you plug in to your existing broadband connection – like having a mini cellular base station in your own home or office.
If you're thinking "that looks like the Vodafone Access Gateway" then you'd be right - the box has been renamed. Vodafone says it made the decision after customer feedback.
Once connected to your router, you can make calls or use data services with your 3G phone with a full-strength signal. It won't matter what network coverage is like around your home location. It'll all be routed through your internet connection.
The Vodafone Sure Signal is a small wedge-shaped box, approximately the size of a fixed line broadband router (it measures 190(h) x 150(w) x 37(h)mm and weighs 414g).
Made by French telecoms manufacturer Sagem, the Sure Signal is a 'femtocell', which provides low-powered cellular connection in-building, linking the phone to the mobile network via a home broadband connection rather than via normal network cellular base stations.
Up to four Vodafone 3G handsets can make or take calls, or use data services, through the Sure Signal at any one time, and any 3G mobile phone in the UK is compatible with it.
Up to 32 Vodafone mobile phone numbers can be registered for the device, so you can enable family, friends, work colleagues and even neighbours to access the Sure Signal – provided they're with the network – though rest assured, it's not accessible to casual passing stranger
As well as mobile phones, other devices such as USB modem sticks and data cards can be registered for access to the Sure Signal. The list of registered numbers can be added to or changed with a quick call to the support line.
Vodafone has launched the Vodafone Sure Signal primarily as a device for boosting signals for the home or small business where signal strength is an issue. It is selling the device on its own for a one-off fee of £160, or it can be had from free bundled with certain 3G handsets for a contract payment of £15 per month.
Alternatively, existing Vodafone customers can get one for an additional monthly charge of £5.
Vodafone Sure Signal: Handling
The set-up procedure for the Vodafone Sure Signal is very straightforward. The device plugs in via a cable to a spare Ethernet port on a fixed broadband router, and is powered via a mains plug.
A fixed broadband connection with a minimum speed of 1Mbps is required - if you're unsure, your connection can be tested on Vodafone's Sure Signal website.
A series of four indicator lights on the curved white casing show when the power is on or off, whether there is an internet connection, if a phone call is being made or if a data session is active, and when the Sure Signal is ready for use.
Before enjoying full in-home cellular coverage, though, you do have to register the device online. It's no great task – just the list of phone numbers you want to use with the device and other regular details, and the serial number of the Sure Signal.
Once registered, you're promised an email confirmation of registration within 24 hours to confirm you're up and running – though our confirmation took little over an hour to arrive
Plug in the device for the first time, and the initialisation process takes up to an hour to complete. Vodafone recommends the Sure Signal be left on for up to 6 hours to optimise itself on the first connection.
Following Vodafone's connection procedures was a breeze. It was ready to operate within a couple of hours from first getting it out of the box and registering online. And with no extra configuration necessary for the handsets connecting to the device, it required no effort for setting up or using for us or registered users.
Immediately we found our signal strength, which hovered around the 2-3 bar mark for local cellular connection, boosted to a full 5 bars with HSDPA indicated. It does what it says on the tin, with no fuss or hassle.
The cost of calls and data are treated the same as if you were using the regular mobile network, and will be covered in your normal inclusive airtime and data deals – there's no special deal for using your own broadband connection to route calls!
Out of range of the Sure Signal, your phone will use the regular Vodafone cellular network, and as you may be using one of these in a low signal area users could find calls being dropped as they leave Sure Signal coverage or switch between base station and femtocell coverage. We, however, didn't experience any issues with it.
Vodafone Sure Signal: Verdict
The Vodafone Sure Signal works great in boosting in-building signal coverage. Its set-up procedure is straightforward and requires minimal technical know how, giving it an easy-to-use appeal. No phone configuration is required either – once set up, you just use your phone(s), or other mobile devices, as normal.
It works well and provides consistent voice and data connection at full strength within range of the Sure Signal.
We didn't like:
The price isn't particularly cheap at the moment, so its appeal to users may be limited; alternative networks with better local coverage might appear a simpler, cheaper option. We'd have also liked the facility to amend our user list online rather than having to phone a helpdesk. All else was fine.
The Vodafone Sure Signal could prove a useful investment for Vodafone customers struggling with indoor coverage in the home or office. Vodafone has delivered a simple to set up and use solution that lives up to its billing.
Whether the benefit is worth the price will depend on your particular needs and communication alternatives, though it does work efficiently and effectively.