VMO2 boosts Manchester capacity via Freshwave deal

Virgin Media O2 (VMO2)'s Manchester network is being improved by way of 20 small cells that are being deployed on its behalf by Freshwave.

Nick Wood

June 14, 2024

2 Min Read

The communications infrastructure-as-a-service provider has struck a deal with Manchester City Council to install the equipment on street furniture in busy parts of the city and surrounding areas, including the Arndale shopping centre, Manchester Piccadilly Station, and Piccadilly Gardens.

The outdoor small cells will address demand in these high footfall areas, easing the pressure on VMO2's macro network, thereby improving the overall experience across the city. The small cells will initially carry 4G traffic but are also 5G-ready. Data from these new sites will be backhauled via VMO2's fibre network.

The partnership also helps Manchester in its quest to become what it calls a world-class digital city by 2026.

"This agreement is a significant step towards achieving the aims set out in our Digital Strategy for 2021-26, which outlines our ambitious vision to build a more digitally enabled future for Manchester," said councillor Rabnawaz Akbar, executive member for finance and resources at Manchester City Council. "By enhancing communication, improving access to vital services, and driving economic growth, improved connectivity will make a transformative difference to the lives of businesses, residents, and visitors alike."

There seems to be renewed interest in using small cells to address capacity demands in areas of high traffic.

According to Analysys Mason, after a lull in 2019, global small cell revenue grew at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 18%  between 2020 and 2023 to around $5 billion.

Separate figures from the Small Cell Forum (SCF) predict that annual deployments of urban and public small cells – including distributed antenna systems (DAS) – will reach 1.8 million this year, increasing to 2.9 million by 2028. Western Europe is expected to account for 192,000 of these in 2024, rising to 378,000 in 2028.

As for VMO2, these days it seems to be one of the UK's more proactive purveyors of small cell-based capacity upgrades.

It was around this time a couple of years ago that it announced it had installed 1,300 5G small cells across London, and claimed to have deployed more than any other operator in the country. That rollout also had participation from Freshwave, which helped out with a trial involving small cells installed on bus shelters.

VMO2 has been getting even more experimental recently.

In March, it revealed it has been installing small cells on some of its fibre cabinets. The masts are small enough to not require planning permission, and there is a ready-made fibre connection for the all-important backhaul.

"We are committed to bringing the best experience possible to our customers no matter where they are," said Steven Verigotta director of mobile delivery at VMO2. "Small cells are an important part of this strategy, helping to boost capacity for customers in some of the busiest areas."

About the Author(s)

Nick Wood

Nick is a freelancer who has covered the global telecoms industry for more than 15 years. Areas of expertise include operator strategies; M&As; and emerging technologies, among others. As a freelancer, Nick has contributed news and features for many well-known industry publications. Before that, he wrote daily news and regular features as deputy editor of Total Telecom. He has a first-class honours degree in journalism from the University of Westminster.

Get the latest news straight to your inbox.
Register for the Telecoms.com newsletter here.

You May Also Like