Europe’s busiest shopping district is set to be used as a test zone for the UK’s fastest 5G network. London’s West End has been chosen as a prime location to trial the new technology by Three UK and SSE Enterprise Telecoms. The two companies will run the fibre test bed as part of an ongoing connectivity collaboration programme.
As one of the most populated and highly visited regions in the city – home to Europe’s busiest retail road, Oxford Street, generating tens of millions of monthly visitors – the rollout of the UK’s fastest 5G network in this area of the capital, is a major development for London. The project will allow Three UK to add extra capacity to its 4G and 5G networks to offer customers in the proximity a faster, more reliable experience.
Jace Tyrrell, Chief Executive of New West End Company, which represents 600 businesses in London’s West End, said: “As the world’s leading retail & leisure destination, London’s West End is the ideal place to test the UK’s fastest 5G network. In order to retain its global status, the international centre must have the infrastructure and connectivity to support its businesses and the 200 million annual visitors to the area who expect it to be fully digitally equipped. The evolution of the retail sector prioritises unique customer experiences, and increasingly relies on new, frictionless and innovative technology. This deployment will enable consumers to connect and engage with retailers on a new level, and power sustainable growth across the West End”.
Nationwide availability of high capacity fibre is vital to the successful deployment of 5G, and last year SSE Enterprise Telecoms outlined its most significant network investment project to date. The programme, known as ‘Edge 3’, will see the company unbundle 177 BT exchanges by 2020, allowing SSE Enterprise Telecoms to deploy its own technology on BT’s infrastructure and add over 180,000 UK business post codes to its network reach. It underpins Mobile Network Operator (MNO) Three UK’s 4G enhancement, and 5G home broadband and mobile ambitions.
5G launch plans
Three UK will launch its first 5G sites offering home broadband this August in London, and extend to 25 other UK towns and cities before the end of the year. The communications provider will roll out its 5G broadband initially – supported by an innovative project by SSE Enterprise Telecoms that sees part of its fibre network run through London’s Thames Water waste water network to enhance densification in a key metro area – 50% of which will be rolled out in summer 2019. Anticipating where 5G demand would surge, SSE Enterprise Telecoms sought new, innovative routes to create a fibre network in a key location with faster deployment timescales than traditional digs. SSE Enterprise Telecoms’ innovation won’t stop there, with teams exploring further creative opportunities to give MNO customers robust backhaul solutions.
The need for new fibre
The race to launch a reliable 5G offering is on but the importance of the underlying networks can’t be overlooked. Its speed, consistency and ubiquity is set to revolutionise consumer services, meaning downloads of HD films in minutes and enablement of future technology such connected cars, smart cities and medical devices could all be possible. However, the key requirement ahead of the launch of commercial 5G services is high-capacity fibre connectivity, which must provide fast, reliable and secure backhaul to core networks in order to be able to cope with the expected massive increase in data usage.
Sarah Mills, sector director for network operators said: “Ofcom data shows UK data usage is set to grow thirteen-fold between 2017 and 2025, this will be concentrated in metro city hotspots. Our high-capacity fibre ring in central London will link to Three UK’s cell sites using London’s water waste network. This innovative, secure and robust fibre installation is necessary to provide greater resiliency, increased capacity and reduced latency. Three UK is already utilising our unique and diverse backhaul connectivity, and we’re in a strong position to trial their 5G offering in one of Europe’s busiest areas, as well as enhancing existing services for their customers. However, our creative approach to networking won’t stop there, as we continue to bring further network innovation to the market over the coming months.”
Dave Dyson, Chief Executive Officer of Three UK: “Fibre is an essential component of any 5G network. Three UK is bringing the UK’s fastest 5G network to 25 towns and cities by the end of this year, as well as significantly enhancing its 4G network over the next few years. SSE Enterprise Telecoms is a vital partner which is using innovative ways to stimulate much needed competition in the fibre backhaul market which will give customers the best experience for both mobile and home broadband services”.