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O2 and Arqiva begin small cell roll-out in London

Mobile operator will use small cells to boost 4G mobile network data capacity in busy areas, such as around stations

Mobile network operator (MNO) O2 and communications infrastructure supplier Arqiva have announced plans to deploy 300 small cells around London to enhance mobile data capacity and coverage on O2’s 4G network.

Taking advantage of Arqiva’s concession contracts with numerous London boroughs – which give it the right to deploy network infrastructure on publicly owned street assets, such as lamp-posts – the agreement will seek to improve network capacity in areas where demand for mobile data is especially high. This could include, for example, the areas around mainline stations or major shopping centres.

“New types of mobile infrastructure are now required to meet the needs of the mobile network operators and their customers,” said Arqiva MD of telecoms and M2M, David Crawford.

Besides enhancing O2’s current 4G network – the operator recently won a large new slice of 4G spectrum in Ofcom’s spectrum auction to help expand its service – the small cell deployment will also be useful in laying the foundations for future 5G mobile network connectivity, when it becomes available in the early 2020s.

Small cells – low-power mobile base stations based on femtocell technology – are widely expected to play a major role in the deployment of 5G networks. Although they have less range and less capacity than a standard base station, they are far cheaper and easier to deploy, and will help extend and densify mobile coverage into the sorts of areas being targeted by O2 and Arqiva, helping to support 5G-dependent use cases, such as pervasive internet of things (IoT) projects.

“As demand for data continues to increase, the requirement for network densification will grow and the use of street furniture and small cells will play a critical role in delivering the mobile networks of the future,” said Crawford.

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O2 CTO Brendan O’Reilly added: “National 5G infrastructure – when it arrives in a few years’ time – will not only have a crucial impact on our economy, it will change the way we live our lives. Our partnership with Arqiva reflects this belief and demonstrates our commitment to exploring opportunities to provide the increased capacity and denser coverage our customers deserve in the areas they need it most.

“Only by working together, with industry partners, regulators and government policy-makers, will we be able to continue delivering the best for our customers and to help the UK maintain the digital leadership we have all worked so hard to establish.”

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