Vodafone Sure Signal 2 sheds bulk but fills 3G blackspots for more users

Vodafone UK has outed its second-generation Sure Signal, squeezing the femtocell down into a wall-wart scale casing to boost network performance in low-signal areas. The new version – considerably smaller than the router-sized first-gen Sure Signal – features a pass-through power socket and can give a full set of bars to up to eight devices simultaneously, by re-routing them over your broadband connection.Femtocells, for the uninitiated, are a way for carriers to fill in small areas of poor network strength – such as basements – by helping subscribers create their own, personal bubble of coverage. Hooked up to your broadband connection, they allow (pre-registered) phones to connect as if to a regular base station, but calls and data are funneled over the internet to the carrier.

Compared to the first-gen model, as well as being smaller the new Sure Signal supports more simultaneous users and can now have up to 32 devices registered as "approved" to use it. A minimum broadband speed of 1MB is required for stable use, though obviously the width of the pipe demanded will depend on how many people are using it at the same time.

Vodafone is offering the Sure Signal now, priced at £100. Some might find paying to fill in the carrier's dead spots frustrating, but if it's a case of paying up or being forced to step out into the cold every time you need to make a call, it's probably worth it.