Follow Us

We use cookies to provide you with a better experience. If you continue to use this site, we'll assume you're happy with this. Alternatively, click here to find out how to manage these cookies

hide cookie message

Virgin Media Business to offer "small cells as a service"

Mobile operators could soon be able to offlaod their data traffic onto Virgin's fibre network

Article comments

Virgin Media Business has announced plans to launch a wholesale small cell network that will enable UK mobile operators to deliver faster and more robust internet connections than current 3G services or Wi-Fi.

Small cells are low-powered radio access nodes that improve indoor and outdoor coverage to increase capacity and offload traffic.

Ofcom indicated last year that small cells, such as femtocells and microcells, will have to be incorporated into the 4G LTE network infrastructure if mobile operators are to cope with the massive surge in demand for data.

Virgin Media Business has teamed up with Newcastle and Bristol councils to conduct small scale trials of “metrocells” – a type of microcell based on a system-on-chip (SoC) architecture that is optimised for use in urban areas.

LTE metrocell access points from Alcatel Lucent and Airspan were mounted on street furniture, such as lampposts, and connected back into Virgin Media’s network via a fibre optic link.

Within a 200m radius of the metrocell, data transmission was typically three times as fast as existing 3G macrocell networks, delivering download speeds of up to 90Mbps – albeit to a very small number of users. At a distance of 300m, the speed was closer to 50Mbps.

The trials also proved that the signal is strong enough to penetrate most buildings without interrupting user experience, according to Virgin Media Business.

Dr Simon Saunders, director of technology for Real Wireless, said that small cells can benefit mobile operators by providing offload capacity when macro networks become overloaded, improving the depth of coverage in buildings, and enabling them to provide continuous coverage.

Saunders, who helped Virgin conduct the trials, explained that metrocells can be spread out across a city to create “corridors of high capacity”, so that users have a consistently fast connection.

“These trials show that small cells have the potential to supercharge internet connectivity and deliver a sustainable solution to today’s mobile bottleneck,” he said.

Virgin Media Business is now in negotiations with the UK's mobile operators to deploy small cells on a wider scale. The company intends to offer metrocells as a hosted managed service, so mobile operators can simply add their own radio heads onto Virgin's infrastructure.

Kevin Baughan, director of wireless at Virgin Media Business, said this “small cells as a service” concept should appeal to mobile operators because it is more cost effective than each operator building their own small cell infrastructure.

“We are not just catering to a fixed pool of demand, but offering an opportunity for growth and innovation by putting the infrastructure out there,” said Baughan.

Saunders added that, as mobile operators increasingly offer services over a shared network infrastructure, small cells could become the “last bastion” of competition, allowing them to differentiate from their rivals on speed and capacity.

The cost of such a rollout is not yet clear, but Bristol City Council's Helen Bream suggested that public money invested as part of the government's “super-connected cities” programme could be used to support the deployment of small cells.

Steve Smith, from Newcastle City Council, added that local governments have a responsibility to provide the infrastructure to allow its citizens to take advantage of online public services. “We see the small cell and mobile operators helping a great deal,” he said.


More from Techworld

More relevant IT news


Send to a friend

Email this article to a friend or colleague:

PLEASE NOTE: Your name is used only to let the recipient know who sent the story, and in case of transmission error. Both your name and the recipient's name and address will not be used for any other purpose.

Techworld White Papers

Choose – and Choose Wisely – the Right MSP for Your SMB

End users need a technology partner that provides transparency, enables productivity, delivers...

Download Whitepaper

10 Effective Habits of Indispensable IT Departments

It’s no secret that responsibilities are growing while budgets continue to shrink. Download this...

Download Whitepaper

Gartner Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Information Archiving

Enterprise information archiving is contributing to organisational needs for e-discovery and...

Download Whitepaper

Advancing the state of virtualised backups

Dell Software’s vRanger is a veteran of the virtualisation specific backup market. It was the...

Download Whitepaper

Techworld UK - Technology - Business

Innovation, productivity, agility and profit

Watch this on demand webinar which explores IT innovation, managed print services and business agility.

Techworld Mobile Site

Access Techworld's content on the move

Get the latest news, product reviews and downloads on your mobile device with Techworld's mobile site.

Find out more...

From Wow to How : Making mobile and cloud work for you

On demand Biztech Briefing - Learn how to effectively deliver mobile work styles and cloud services together.

Watch now...

Site Map

* *