Virgin Media tests LTE small cells, readies wholesale plan

Virgin Media Business successfully completed LTE small cell trials in the UK cities of Newcastle and Bristol and the company plans to wholesale the service to UK operators.

Kevin Baughan, director of technical strategy at Virgin Media, told the Huffington Post that EE, Vodafone and 3 UK have been provided with the results from the trials, with 3UK already providing "encouraging and positive feedback." Virgin recently launched a new business area dubbed Small Cells as a Service (SCaaS), but not contracts have been inked yet with operators.

The company claims that speeds of up to 90 Mbps were achieved with good in-building penetration being reported in dense urban environments.

The trials used small cells developed by Alcatel-Lucent which were mounted on street lights with the backhaul being enabled by Virgin Media's existing fibre network.

Baughan added: "The big advantage we have is we've already got the fibre networks in the big cities and have those key relationships, which will make it easier to gain access to mounting areas like lampposts."

"The distance each of these boxes covers is about 500 meters, so it wouldn't do to have small cells instead of big cells, but it does provide extra capacity for areas which are busy," he told the Huffington Post.

The trial was monitored by the independent research company, Real Wireless, which carried out in-depth analysis of the performance and legitimacy of the LTE small cells trial.

Simon Saunders, director of technology for Real Wireless, said in a statement that LTE connectivity is being eagerly awaited, but small cells can also dramatically improve the performance of 3G networks in the interim. "We're still in the early stages of understanding what this technology can do, but these trials show that small cells have the potential to supercharge internet connectivity and deliver a sustainable solution to today's mobile bottleneck," he said.

This latest trial follows a small cell LTE test conducted in January by Virgin Media in London. Support for this trial in Newcastle and Bristol was supported by Alcatel-Lucent, Airspan and Ruckus Wireless.

For more:
- see this Virgin Media release
- see this Huffington Post article
- see this article

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