Arqiva and CityFibre to build 5G small cell network in London

Arqiva and CityFibre are to build the UK’s largest deployment of 5G-ready small cells in the London borough of Hammersmith & Fulham.

The partners hope the project will demonstrate the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of using small cells to densify networks in busy urban areas, and that CityFibre’s national network is a genuine option for 5G backhaul.

Arqiva has contracts with many London boroughs to use their street furniture and assets, such as lampposts and public buildings, to deploy network infrastructure but chose Hammersmith & Fulham because its high population density made it an ideal test location.

5G small cells

The small cells will be supported by a CityFibre constructed 15-kilometre fibre network and 90 cabinets which can host small cell infrastructure from multiple operators.

“This pilot network is a massive step forward for mobile and fixed wireless connectivity in London,” said David Crawford, head of telecoms and M2M at Arqiva. “We are showing that ubiquitous high-speed connections using dark fibre and small cells are possible and we are delighted to be leading the way with our pilot in Hammersmith & Fulham.

“Our aim with this project is to show the business and consumer benefits of this architecture and a successful rollout in Hammersmith & Fulham can be the prelude to a wider deployment in future.”

CityFibre is investing more than £2.5 billion to bring fibre to the premise (FTTP) infrastructure to five million homes across the UK. It plans to compete with Openreach for wholesale contracts and mobile backhaul services.

It has built several city-based networks, and in 2015 bought KCOM’s infrastructure outside Hull and East Yorkshire. According to its full year results, CityFibre now has 3,740km of fibre infrastructure, up from 3,383km the year before.

As part of a separate project, Arqiva is working with O2 to deploy 300 small cells across the capital.

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.