Vodafone signed a global agreement with outdoor advertising company JCDecaux to deploy small cells on street furniture and billboards to further enhance its network performance.
The new technology, which will be deployed as part of Vodafone's £19 billion (€24 billion/$30 billion) Project Spring investment programme, will enable the network operator to extend network reach, improve voice quality and increase data connectivity speeds.
Vodafone said it will work with JCDecaux to install small cells on street furniture and billboard sites primarily in cities and other densely populated areas. However, the operator has not provided any further details on where, or to what extent, it might seek to deploy small cells.
Under the terms of the agreement, Vodafone will deploy and manage the technology while JCDecaux will be responsible for designing and manufacturing the housing for the equipment.
Vodafone added that the agreement follows the success of a pilot programme conducted by Vodafone Netherlands where over 160 small cells were installed on JCDecaux bus shelters in Amsterdam.
For the operator, the agreement with JCDecaux represents a step towards resolving one of the key challenges in small cell installations along with backhaul: access to new sites.
"After successful testing in Amsterdam, we are pleased to continue our collaboration with Vodafone by supporting its strategy to develop the quality of its networks. Connected street furniture is set to transform city life and JCDecaux is enthusiastic about contributing to these structural changes, providing lasting benefits to municipalities and citizens," said Jean-Charles Decaux, chairman and co-CEO of JCDecaux.
Mobile operators globally are launching small cells within homes, offices, and in public spaces to improve access to 3G and LTE networks by enhancing coverage and capacity.
In the UK, for example, EE recently said it plans to deploy small cells to close wireless coverage gaps in 1,500 rural villages in the UK, following a trial of what the operator called a world first technology in a community comprising 129 homes and businesses. The operator said its network is unique because it does not require fixed broadband to connect to the wider mobile network.
In November, UK newspaper the Telegraph reported that EE, Vodafone UK, O2 UK and Three UK had agreed to invest millions of pounds in new masts to boost voice coverage to 89 per cent of the population in a bid to stave off legislation. The UK government has opened a consultation on potential legislation to improve the availability of mobile services, for example by developing a national roaming plan.
- see this Vodafone release
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