Cornerstone aims to light up UK smart city sector with Signify deal

Passive infrastructure provider Cornerstone plans to deploy a neutral host network based on smart street light technology.

Nick Wood

May 13, 2024

2 Min Read

The company – which manages Virgin Media O2 (VMO2) and Vodafone's shared mobile network – has partnered with Netherlands-based Signify, which was spun off from Philips in 2016.

Signify's portfolio includes its BrightSites Broadband Luminaire products, which are LED streetlamps that double up as network extenders. They can be used to provide a mesh network, similar to home wifi extenders, except these run on 60 GHz millimetre-wave (mmWave) spectrum and support 5G.

Cornerstone said it will use Luminaire technology to deliver reliable, seamless connectivity in outdoor urban environments in a manner that is both discreet and efficient. In turn, service providers will be able to use the network to launch any number of smart city applications.

Cornerstone plans to launch its new neutral host network in three as-yet unnamed cities within the next 10 weeks.

Spurred on by climate change, the pandemic, and the continuing digitisation of pretty much every sector of the economy, more and more cities are pushing on with their smart city programmes.

According to tech and energy research firm Guidehouse Insights, the global market for smart city technology is expected to be worth $301.2 billion by 2032, compared to $121.1 billion in 2023, representing a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10.7%.

In 2022, a report by lobby group techUK declared that smart cities have gone from being nice-to-have to essential, if cities are to stand a reasonable chance of addressing the systemic challenges of rapid economic transformation and climate change. It urged all cities, regardless of their size and location, to build smart city capabilities.

For telcos, exploring novel uses of existing street furniture has emerged as one of the more popular avenues to explore when looking to improve network coverage and address demand for smart city tech.

Recent highlights include Three, which has been working with Mavenir on a project to deploy Open RAN small cells on lampposts in Glasgow.

VMO2 in March launched a trial that involves attaching small cells to fibre cabinets as a rapid and cost-effective means of improving coverage.

Meanwhile, incumbent BT has replaced hundreds of old phone boxes with street hubs that bring hotspot connectivity, local information services, and environment monitoring to UK high streets. It has also recently begun converting some of its street cabinets into EV chargers.

It is hard to weigh the impact all these initiatives are having on the overall development of smart cities, but chances are they will have their uses, particularly this new Cornerstone-Signify endeavour, which is likely to benefit transport providers and pedestrians alike.

"This collaboration with Cornerstone marks an exciting opportunity to converge the strengths of two industry leaders," said Khalid Aziz, SVP and managing director of the BrightSites business unit at Signify. "By harnessing the power of 5G and IoT through our street lighting solution, we are illuminating streets and paving the way for a more connected and sustainable future."

Indeed, it will be interesting to see how this network is put to use.

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.

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