O2 launches pilot to boost London network ahead of 5G

Tim Maytom

UK network operator O2 is working with Nokia on two 'Massive MIMO' trials aimed at enhancing connectivity for O2 customers in London, and paving the way for the future deployment of 5G across the capital.

Massive MIMO technology works by sending multiple beams of data from an antenna to devices, increasing performance and enhancing capacity with the ability to serve more users simultaneously. It makes use of the additional 2.3GHz spectrum that O2 secured earlier this year during the spectrum auction. Telefonica-owned O2 was the only UK network to secure extra 2.3GHz capacity to boost its existing network.

The two pilot antenna will be deployed at Kings Cross and Marble Arch, two areas with high data traffic that will benefit from the boosted coverage whilst also enabling O2 to evaluate the technology for future deployment in urban areas. Over 95m people travel through the Kings Cross St Pancras area every year, and over 14m passed through the Marble Arch area in 2017.

"We recognise that customers' need for mobile data in London and other urban areas continues to grow at a rapid pace," said Brendan O'Reilly, chief technology officer for Telefonica UK. "This is why we are working with Nokia to trail Massive MIMO and to explore the opportunities to provide the increased capacity and denser coverage for our customers, in the areas they need it most. Whether trialling 5G or ensuring the remotest parts of rural Britain can connect to 4G, O2 is committed to building a truly mobile Britain."

In addition to enhancing current network capacity, the pilot scheme will lay the foundation for 5G, with Massive MIMO technology expected to help deliver the demand for increased data usage that is expected once the 5G rollout begins. Demand for data has continued to increase in recent years, with the average mobile user consuming 1.9GB a month last year.

"Nokia is proud to work closely with Telefonia UK to help cater for their customers' needs for greater capacity and densification in key areas," said Paul Kander, manager of Telefonica UK's account at Nokia. "Nokia's Massive MIMO technology, in conjunction with Telefonica's investment in new spectrum will considerably enhance and increase the capacity of Telefonica's network and directly address customer demands, ensuring an ever-greater customer experience."