Buildings, cars and all sorts of other objects all communicating with each other is not a thing of the year 3000, but the near future, all reliant on the rapid connectivity that 5G brings. 2020 is the year it is all predicted to be a part of day-to-day life, with today’s hype around 5G possibly even having calmed down by then. But, right now, we are working our way there with regions all over the country rolling out projects and tests and paving the way for our 5G future.
Mark Hung, an analyst at Gartner, pointed out that while 3G brought web browsing and data communication to the smartphone, 4G greatly enhanced it. And, even though towers today can support hundreds or thousands of devices, 5G could help scale the Internet of Things from “hundreds and thousands to hundreds of thousands.”
Big Cities, Small Cells
A recent Accenture report stated: “The next generation of wireless network infrastructure will be built using small-cell networks employing 5G wireless technology. The connectivity and computing capacity unleashed by these high-speed wireless networks will bring the power of Smart City solutions to municipalities across the country,”
Small cells are units that can be installed onto street furniture and the sides of buildings to boost mobile capacity in areas where demand is particularly high or existing coverage is poor. They can also be applied inside venues such as shopping centres, where increased footfall puts a strain on existing communications infrastructure.
They allow people to continue using the connected functions of their smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices without any interruptions. Below, we detail just a couple examples of how local authority is embracing 5G.
The City of Aberdeen is to welcome the UK’s first fibre-connected small cell network, supporting C-RAN technology for faster and higher capacity mobile services, thanks to a partnership between Wireless Infrastructure Group (WIG) and O2.
WIG’s new wireless infrastructure uses a network of small cells attached to lampposts and traffic lights across Aberdeen’s city centre. The small cells are connected back to a nearby hub using WIG’s newly constructed fibre links which enable new network models that deliver faster and higher capacity mobile services.
The infrastructure was designed, deployed and funded by WIG and is built to support all mobile operators as well as other wireless networks. O2 is the first mobile operator to launch its services using the infrastructure and has played a key role in its development, deploying C-RAN technology which is new to the UK. O2 will initially run advanced 4G services but the fibre-connected small cells pave the way for 5G by enabling even faster speeds, lower latency and better coordination between cells than traditional network methods. Better coordination and lower latency is essential for the advancement of future applications such as driverless vehicles.
The first wave of small cell deployment in Aberdeen has now been switched on in key parts of the city and the network passes busy public venues such as the central railway station, Aberdeen University and Aberdeen FC’s stadium. The network is expected to extend across the rest of the city in the years ahead.
Councillor Douglas Lumsden, Aberdeen City Council co-leader said:
“We have a clear vision of enabling the best mobile and wireless connectivity across Aberdeen to stimulate local economic growth. Many departments across the council have engaged closely with WIG to develop the processes needed to make this happen. We are delighted with the deployment of this state of the art network by WIG, with O2 as the first mobile network to come on board”.
A plethora of London councils struck similar agreements with Arqiva. Waltham Forest Council for example, awarded the company the exclusive access rights to street furniture across the London Borough of Waltham Forest for the future deployment of telecommunications infrastructure.
The up to 10 year contract grants Arqiva access to around 16,000 lampposts across the borough, which it will be able to use for the deployment of small cell technology to help the UK operators to further expand mobile coverage and capacity over the coming years.
The deal represents Arqiva’s 14th concession of this kind in London, following similar contract wins in Barnet, Brent, Camden, Hammersmith and Fulham, Haringey, Harrow, Hounslow, Islington, Kingston-Upon-Thames, Lambeth, Merton, Richmond upon Thames and Wandsworth. Arqiva also has similar deals in Manchester, Southampton, Colchester, Eastbourne and Medway.
As the project commences, Arqiva will also deploy Wifi access points – mounted on lampposts – in town centres across the borough to provide free public access to Wi-Fi services.