How Virgin Media O2 is creating a cleaner, greener 5G network

A Virgin Media O2 small cell in London
Virgin Media O2
Natalie Clarkson
by Natalie Clarkson
6 July 2022

Virgin Media O2 is continuing to invest in upgrading the UK, with a new network of small cells across London that will boost capacity for 4G and 5G – while keeping the impact on the environment minimal. 

The network provider is accelerating its 4G and 5G rollout in a more environmentally friendly way, using small cells bolted onto existing street furniture such as lampposts. This means that Virgin Media O2 doesn’t have to build new infrastructure and the installation process is quicker and cleaner. The cells typically have a range of 80-120 metres and can be installed within six weeks of the sites being acquired. They help to target congestion across the network, add capacity as needed and minimise outages. 

The deployment of these new cells has helped Virgin Media O2 to be named as the most reliable network in London, according to new benchmarking results from Global Wireless Solutions. 

Virgin Media O2
Virgin Media O2

Jeanie York, Chief Technology Officer at Virgin Media O2 said: “Building a 5G network is a complex job, so we are constantly looking at ways to create efficiencies via collaboration with partners that will ultimately benefit our customers. Technologies such as small cells help us increase network bandwidth, which allows us to keep up with customer demand, with data traffic levels increasing 34% year on year. 

 “Our Radio Network Engineering team have done a fantastic job to develop our small cell delivery programme. I’m excited to see where this will take us as we look to roll out at scale to provide a more sustainable solution that still provides fast and reliable connectivity for our customers as we upgrade the UK.” 

Virgin Media has also developed small cells that can be installed in bus shelters. The trials, created in partnership with Freshwave, involve new small cells connected to the fibre within bus shelters, which are also 5G ready. The antenna on the roof of the bus shelter has been built for multi-operator use, should there be a demand. Virgin Media O2 is also trialling a new payphone deployment across sites in Westminster with Cellnex UK. 

A man talking on a mobile phone in front of Big Ben

Theo Blackwell, Chief Digital Officer for London, said: “This is further good news for London’s digital infrastructure. It comes about through our partnerships on the ground between boroughs and telecommunications, supporting local rollouts. Small cells don’t just mean much better connections, they also boost jobs and growth, helping us to build a better London for everyone. It’s great to see this investment continuing across London.” 

Small cells can drastically cut down the amount of red tape Virgin Media O2 faces when expanding its network. Network architects work closely with city planners to implement the cells as new building are erected, further reducing time and costs. And the network provider is planning to expand the deployment of small cells outside London, with several pilots in play across the UK – including deploying small cells to support the Commonwealth Games this summer in Birmingham. 

If successful, Virgin Media O2 could roll out small cell solutions across the UK at scale to boost its 4G and 5G networks.  

Visit Virgin Media O2 to find out more.