Arqiva said the small cell pilot will allow carriers to test 5G capabilities in Hammersmith and Fulham districts

UK communications infrastructure firm Arqiva and compatriot fiber provider CityFibre have launched a pilot of wholesale, 5G-ready small cell infrastructure in London.

The two partners said that the pilot project in the London borough of Hammersmith and Fulham will involve a new 15-kilometer fiber network, which is multi-operator-capable and provides the bandwidth for mobile network operators (MNOs) to explore advanced technology including centralized Radio Access Network architecture and 5G. The network consists of a fiber ring with over 90 cabinets to enable the sharing of the infrastructure, the companies said.

The fiber network, installed by CityFibre, will give mobile operators the ability to quickly and easily deploy small cells to connect businesses and residents to 5G technology. The pilot is part of CityFibre’s recently announced £2.5bn ($3.2 billion) fiber investment program to provide a national backhaul solution for 5G rollouts.

The London borough of Hammersmith and Fulham is home to around 180,000 people living in about 84,000 households in an area of 6.3 square miles. Arqiva was awarded the concession contract with Hammersmith and Fulham in 2014, allowing the company to make use of the borough’s street assets – including lampposts – to place communications equipment. Arqiva worked closely with the borough to select the most appropriate locations for the infrastructure.

“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 fiber and small cells are possible and we are delighted to be leading the way with our pilot in Hammersmith and 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,” said David Crawford, managing director of telecoms and M2M at Arqiva.

“This has been an invaluable exercise to demonstrate the capability of our fiber networks to support the next generation of 5G small cells and services. 5G networks will only work on fiber and a new modern infrastructure is needed at scale to support them,” said Rob Hamlin, commercial director at CityFibre.

In April, mobile operator O2 and Arqiva confirmed plans to deploy up to 300 small cells across London. The companies said the small cells will offer enhanced mobile data capacity and coverage in some of London’s busiest districts. That contract stipulates the deployment of small cells in a number of boroughs including the Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, Richmond upon Thames, Wandsworth, Camden and Lambeth, among others. Small cells will be started to be deployed in the coming months with deployment continuing up to 2020.

O2 and Arqiva said the 300 small cells will be installed on street assets, such as lampposts, to deliver increased capacity in areas where mobile data demand is particularly high, for example outside transport hubs and major shopping areas.

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