Innovator Profile: Vodafone

By Ivan Barberis
Technical Coordinator for Innovation, Remote Control, Cost & Energy Efficiency
Access Infrastructure Management,
Vodafone Italy



Vodafone Italia has recently faced an increase in break-ins at their Radio Access sites with batteries. Over the last fiscal year (2017-18), break-ins have reached a peak of over a thousand across the network with affecting approximately 8% of base stations (owned by Vodafone) in the overall network, and up to 25% in specific provinces.

Unfortunately these is not an isolated events or relegated to Italy, in 2015 it was report that five contractors removed back up batteries and insulating wire selling them for scrap metal worth more than £15,000 . Although not Vodafone sites in particular, reports of thefts have been report in many other countries, such as India, Canada and Australia – highlighting this as a global problem.

To combat theft, Vodafone in conjunction with the Vodafone Automotive team and their battery suppliers, have installed concealed GPS devices within the battery casing and is indistinguishable from standard non-GPS enabled batteries. The GPS sensor is activated when movement or vibrations are detected above a certain threshold and the movements can be monitored remotely from Vodafone’s central Security Operations Centre (SOC).

From a law enforcement perspective, the goal is not to intercept the batteries immediately but to also understand the dynamics for how these often organised criminal networks operate, transit routes, and hot spots, for example in the case of Vodafone Italia, many batteries were taken out of the country.

On site-theft is being combatted with sophisticated active and passive protection systems that include the introduction of GPS solutions inside battery equipment. It is in the provinces where the quality of the public network energy supply is less optimal, and where the highest number of battery thefts are recorded.

The anti-theft GPS enabled battery solution project lead by Vodafone Italy Technology and Security Operation department is the result of a strategic agreement involving Vodafone Italy, Vodafone Automotive and  battery manufacturers and is a first in class innovation with no similar project currently available on the market

The GSMA Network Economics Model estimates that this solution provides economics benefits, with potential savings in CapEX and OpEX for MNOs. For an archetypal tier 1 operator in a developed (high urban pop.) country (of similar profile to Vodafone Italy), the savings potentially recognized are associated with the reduced number of thefts of blocks/batteries on sites, (top range assumes 100% of batteries stolen are recoverable with GPS tech), and the consequential reduced number of sites requiring re-securing following theft (USD3-5000 per site).

Vodafone Italia S.p.A. is a mobile operator, provides mobile telecommunication services to customers in Italy, of which there is approximately 29 million customers with a market share of 29.5%. Vodafone Italia was founded in 1995 and based in Ivrea, is a fully owned subsidiary of Vodafone Group PLC.

Thanks to the EUR3.6 billion ‘Project Spring’, making Vodafone Italia the second largest operator in Europe and doubling Vodafone’s investment in the development of mobile and fixed ultra-broadband in the last two years. Vodafone’s 4G network reaches 98% of the population (over 7200 municipalities, of which 2,200 are with 4G+ network at 225 Megabytes per second (Mbps). Vodafone is attentive to technological evolution and continues to invest in the superiority of the network to offer the best possible experience to its customers.

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Please note that the blog post above does not constitute an endorsement by the GSMA. All information has been provided directly by the company profiled. 

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