Arqiva, CityFibre deliver UK’s largest pilot of 5G-ready small cell deployment

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The multi million-pound pilot project in the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham is creating a brand-new 15km high density fibre network, which is multi-operator capable

Arqiva, the UK’s communications infrastructure company, and CityFibre, the UK’s largest alternative provider of wholesale full fibre infrastructure, have revealed details of the UK’s largest pilot of wholesale, 5G-ready small cell infrastructure.

The multi million-pound pilot project in the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham is creating a brand-new 15km high density fibre network, which is multi-operator capable and provides the bandwidth for mobile network operators (MNOs) to explore advanced technology including centralised C-Ran architecture and 5G. The network consists of a fibre ring with over 90 cabinets to enable the sharing of the infrastructure.

The fibre network, installed by CityFibre, will provide operators with increased, scalable and cost effective backhaul capacity, giving any MNO the ability to quickly and easily deploy small cells to connect businesses and residents to the ultra-fast 5G network. The pilot has proven the ability of CityFibre’s networks, deployed as part of its recently announced £2.5bn full fibre investment programme, to provide a national backhaul solution for 5G rollouts.

The London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham is home to around 180,000 people living in about 84,000 households in an area of 6.3 square miles. The density of its population will put extra pressure on telecoms connectivity as demand for voice and data continues to grow exponentially.

Arqiva was awarded the concession contract with Hammersmith & Fulham in 2014, allowing the company to make use of the borough’s street assets – including lampposts – to place communications equipment. These street assets are critical to network densification and are an integral part of this network rollout, along with the deployment of cabinets at street level which provide a shared space for multiple MNO small cells. Arqiva worked closely with the borough to select the most appropriate locations for the infrastructure to provide the greatest benefit to users.

Hammersmith & Fulham represents one of Arqiva’s 14 street furniture concessions in London, with similar contracts existing in Barnet, Brent, Camden, Haringey, Harrow, Hounslow, Islington, Kingston-Upon-Thames, Lambeth, Merton, Richmond upon Thames, Waltham Forest and Wandsworth.

David Crawford, Managing Director of Telecoms & M2M at Arqiva, said, “This pilot network is a massive step forward for mobile and fixed wireless connectivity in London. We are showing that ubiquitous high-speed connections using dark fibre and small cells are possible and we are delighted to be leading the way with our pilot in Hammersmith & Fulham. As demand for data continues to increase exponentially, the pressures on networks will continue to grow and densification using street furniture and small cells is critical to deliver the network of the future.”

“Our aim with this project is to show the business and consumer benefits of this architecture and a successful rollout in Hammersmith & Fulham can be the prelude to a wider deployment in future.”

Rob Hamlin, Commercial Director at CityFibre, informed, “This has been an invaluable exercise to demonstrate the capability of our fibre networks to support the next generation of 5G small cells and services. 5G networks will only work on fibre and a new modern infrastructure is needed at scale to support them. With our £2.5bn rollout of full fibre infrastructure to 5 million homes already underway, we are creating a 5G-ready network platform nationwide that will provide the best network at the best economics for Mobile Network Operators.”