Three of the big four vendors have signed up to a pilot scheme led by Freshwave, pitched as ‘the first small cell network in the UK capable of hosting all four mobile network operators from day one.’

EE has now gone live on Freshwave’s connectivity pilot based along Queen Victoria Street in the City of London, while VMO2 is expected to hook up early in 2023 and Vodafone in the first quarter of 2023. There was no mention of whether Three would be joining the party in the announcement.

Apparently this project is the first time 5G small cells have been deployed in the city of London, but the main point of the trial is to demonstrate that Freshwave’s mobile infrastructure is capable of delivering 4G and 5G for all four operators through its neutral host network.

This was achieved, we are told, via a bespoke solution consisting of specially designed wideband antennas, cabinets and columns and large amounts of dark fibre to each cabinet, and all of this can apparently accommodate the big four from day one with no adjustments to the infrastructure needed – which it says is a first for the UK.

“We’re delighted to have reached this milestone in the pilot of our truly multi-operator neutral host network,” Simon Frumkin, Freshwave’s CEO. “Shared digital infrastructure is the logical evolution in telecoms as cities become more connected and smarter. Companies like Freshwave that deploy using the neutral host model help accelerate this connectivity for everyone as the model is more cost-effective, greener and less disruptive. I’m proud Freshwave are doing what’s right by all parties in this area.”

James Hope, Director of Mobile Radio Access Networks at EE, added: “High capacity, super-fast connectivity is essential for consumers and businesses today, with demand for data and low-latency networks continuing to rise. We’re pleased to be the first operator live on this pilot with Freshwave helping to deliver the best possible 4G and 5G services to our City of London customers, even at the busiest times. The project is a further demonstration of how we’re enhancing our networks to help both digitise and deliver economic prosperity to the UK, and we look forward to extending it in the future.”

If small cells are going to be the solution for ramping up connectivity in congested areas, it actually makes a lot of sense to have all the networks amplified through a single unit. If there is no technological or practical impediment for doing so, having one small cell carrying all the mobile traffic would logically a lot more efficient than cramming four units into the same square foot of pavement – and that’s to say nothing of the aesthetics of it all.

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