Five pairs of nesting falcons have disrupted Vodafone customers' mobile phone signals in London and the south east – because the birds have set up shop on the carrier's masts.
The Daily Telegraph reported that Vodafone engineers spotted the birds of prey nesting on and around base stations on a church, a hospital and an office block in the last few days.
UK law prohibits any disturbance of the rare raptors' nests under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, so while Vodafone's masts can continue to operate as normal they cannot be maintained – or, more importantly, upgraded. The operator is in the middle of a £200m 4G network upgrade programme.
Vodafone spokesman Simon Gordon told El Reg that there are pairs in Lewisham, Shadwell, Hammersmith and Hampshire. He added that there may be more but they only get discovered when maintenance crews arrive at the sites.
“We have to work through experts when we want to approach them”, he told us.
One of the sites does have some performance problems and so Vodafone is re-routing traffic to adjacent sites, Gordon added, but there may be a blip in performance. These are all Vodafone sites; they are not shared with other networks.
Gordon explained that Falcons usually like rocky cliffs but given the absence of such in metropolitan London they make do with phone masts. Typically they nest for two to three months. Vodafone was very pleased to have the world’s fastest bird as visitors to its masts, Gordon added.
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) estimates that there are 1,402 breeding pairs of falcons in the UK, of which 30 nesting pairs are in the capital. ®