Small cells in the big wide world


We have been supporting Virgin Media Business’s trials of a hosted managed small cell service. The trials have involved two small cell vendors: Alcatel-Lucent and Airspan, who worked with the Virgin team to trial LTE small cells mounted on lampposts in Newcastle and Bristol. The measurements included both indoor and outdoor locations.

Our role has been to provide independent analysis of the trial data and determine how it informs some of the key questions regarding small cells, including:

  • How well do small cells work? 
  • Where should they be placed?
  • How many are needed?

The results so far are very promising as indicated in Virgin Media’s press release. And the potential was brought to life in a compelling
 demonstration yesterday, including representatives from mobile operators and the city councils. The shoebox – sized small cell was mounted outdoors but provided impressive service to a host of devices indoors, providing seven (yes, 7) high-quality video streams, 4-way video conferencing and web browsing – simultaneously!

But there are plenty of open questions and challenges ahead, including the practical challenges of gaining access to the right street furniture and of providing suitable backhaul. A hosted, managed service (for which we have coined the term SCaaS – Small Cells as a Service) looks like a promising option to help with both of these.


Yesterday’s event was also well-attended by the press – here’s a selection of the resulting articles: