Case Study: Connecting Outdoor Small Cells in the City of London with Netomnia and Freshwave

Aug 16, 2023

Ensuring people get mobile signal where and when they want it can be extremely challenging. Demand for mobile data keeps going up and people increasingly expect mobile signal wherever they are.

The City of London is one of the busiest areas in the UK, with narrow streets and high footfall, all penned in by tall buildings made with tonnes of metal and glass. As such, the Square Mile presents a definite challenge for mobile connectivity. People want to use their mobiles when out and about and this places high demand on macro cell sites on rooftops or masts.

Freshwave, the UK’s leading connectivity infrastructure-as-a-service provider, partnered with Netomnia, one of the fastest growing full fibre networks in the UK and provider of dark fibre network solutions, to install 10 outdoor small cell sites along a 1km stretch of Queen Victoria Street, passing Bank, Mansion House, the Millennium Bridge and Blackfriars.

These outdoor small cells enhance 4G and 5G mobile capacity so that people in busy urban areas at street-level can benefit from boosted mobile signal. Critically, Freshwave created the mobile infrastructure to make it shareable and capable of delivering 4G and 5G for all four mobile network operators with no adjustments to the infrastructure needed – a first for the UK.

Netomnia was the dark fibre provider of choice for this project due to the way it builds its network. The company specialises in using existing ducting under roads and pavements, used for telephone wires and copper internet, to quickly run its fibre network without having to carry out any additional civil works. Ideal for the busy Square Mile.

But, adding to the normal complexity that comes with the pilot of new infrastructure technology was, ironically, London’s old infrastructure. There is not a duct in the area that isn’t filled with both current and obsolete technology. Likewise, there was a desperate need to minimise disruption throughout the build.

Netomnia’s software-driven approach to building its network meant it and Freshwave were able to work closely with the City Corporation to develop a detailed plan that would circumnavigate heritage infrastructure (utilising the vast underground pipe subway networks) and minimise disruption to the local community. With a well-organised installation team and open communication with the City of London Highways Operations Division, the project was completed within just six months.

Ultimately the project was a success, demonstrating that new infrastructure doesn’t have to mean massive delays and disruption, provided it’s delivered by a smart and collaborative team. Two mobile operators are already live on the network with a third joining soon. And the next phase of the project will see the rollout of the technology across the City, resulting in the densest outdoor small cell network in the UK.

To find out more about Freshwave and Netomnia’s collaboration, click here.