Mobile Covid testing units given WiFi boost

Written by Sam Trendall on 4 February 2021 in News

DHSC signs deal with Vodafone

Credit: Richard Gray/EMPICS Entertainment

The Department of Health and Social Care has signed a £575,000 deal to ensure mobile coronavirus testing units have sufficient WiFi connectivity.

Procurement documents show that the DHSC signed a one-year contract with Vodafone on 21 December. The deal will see the mobile network operator provide the Test and Trace programme with 503 of its smart hubs and 2,500 data SIM cards. The contract also covers installation, access and hosting fees, as well as a data bundle of 80 terabytes – equating to 80,000 gigabytes.

The technology is designed to deliver “signal boosting” for the UK’s current fleet of mobile testing unit (MTU) vehicles, as well as possible additional facilities.

The contract-award notice said that Vodafone will “support MTU existing operations and expansion plans”.

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Mobile testing is a central component of the “surge testing” currently being undertaken in a bid to stamp out the South African variant of coronavirus by testing as many of the adult population as possible in areas where the new strain has been detected.

“MTUs will be deployed offering PCR testing to people without symptoms who have to leave their home for work or essential reasons, with local authorities encouraging people to get tested in the area by providing additional home test kits,” the government said.

The Smart Hub uses a “high-gain antenna to increase signal strength”. Vodafone claims the technology can be set up in a matter of minutes, after which it will provide a “WiFi hotspot with a radius of up to 100 metres”. 

“It’s ideal for use when you can’t rely on your mobile data connection or where a traditional broadband connection isn’t an option,” the company’s website said.

The firm’s contract with the DHSC, which runs until 20 December 2021, is worth £575,847.40.

The deal for additional mobile connectivity was signed less than a month after the department awarded a £4m contract to IT reseller Jigsaw24 to provide the Test and Trace scheme with 16,000 iPhones.


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Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology


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