Virgin Media O2 UK Expand Mobile Small Cells to Central Manchester

Mobile network operator O2 (Virgin Media) has today continued to boost the provider’s 4G and 5G mobile (mobile broadband) capacity across the UK by expanding their ongoing roll-out of small cells into Manchester city centre, which is being supported by agreements with both Freshwave and Manchester City Council.

Small cells are like mini shoebox sized mobile base stations, which have been designed to deliver limited coverage (usually up to around 80-120 metres) and thus tend to be more focused on busy urban areas and specific sites. As a result, it’s not uncommon to find these sitting on top of lampposts, CCTV poles or old payphone cubicles (i.e. they can be more cost-effective than building new street assets or trying to secure wayleaves on buildings etc.).

In the case of central Manchester, O2 and Freshwave plan on deploying “more than 20 outdoor small cells” in busy areas of the city via council-owned assets (lamppost etc.), including outside the Arndale Shopping Centre, Manchester Piccadilly Station and Piccadilly Gardens.

As usual these sites will be connected back to Virgin Media’s fibre optic network for data capacity. We should also add that the small cells are initially only enabled for 4G connectivity, although they are being classed as 5G “ready” for a future upgrade.

Steven Verigotta, Director of Mobile Delivery at VMO2, said:

“We are committed to bringing the best experience possible to our customers no matter where they are. Small cells are an important part of this strategy, helping to boost capacity for customers in some of the busiest areas.

With upgrade programmes underway right across our network, we’re working hard to ensure our customers consistently receive an exceptional experience wherever they are and even at the busiest times.”

As a side note, it’s worth reminding readers that Virgin Media and O2 recently used small cells as part of a trial with parent Liberty Global, which deployed 4G and 5G capable “smart poles” on top of their existing fibre broadband cabinets to help boost mobile network coverage and capacity (here). But there’s no mention of that playing a role in today’s deployment.

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