LED light bulbs will be used to provide high-speed wireless connectivity in a brand new network trial unveiled by mobile operator O2 at its HQ in Slough today.
The cutting-edge trial, conducted in partnership with pureLiFi, uses LED lights to send large amounts of data, while appearing as white light to the human eye. The move is the latest in a series of O2 network trials as it paves the way for its 5G launch in the UK.
As part of the trial, O2 has installed pureLiFi’s LiFi-XC system, comprising of nine LiFi-enabled LED light bulbs, in the ‘Explore Room’ of its Slough HQ. The system enables data to be transmitted from a LED light bulb and back at high speeds through adjustments in the bulb’s brightness. The result is a high-speed, bi-directional and fully networked wireless communication of data.
The LiFi system has the potential to serve as a serious contender to WiFi, which uses radio frequencies. Its reliance on the visible light spectrum aims to enable safer, more reliable and more secure wireless data communication than WiFi. It also has the potential to reduce infrastructure complexity and energy consumption.
Derek McManus, O2’s Chief Operations Officer, said: “At O2 we’re committed to building the best network possible for our customers, and a huge part of that is making sure we’re ahead of the pack in testing the latest technology.
“Our LiFi trial shows how you can deliver high-speed connectivity to customers in new ways and is another example of how we’re future-proofing our network as we pave the way for 5G in the UK.”
Alistair Banham, CEO of pureLiFi, said: “With the proliferation of internet-of-things devices and continued growth in mobile users, the demand for spectrum is under increasing pressure. LiFi is capable of unlocking unprecedented and much-needed data and bandwidth, and we are delighted that O2 has chosen to partner with pureLiFi to explore this tremendous potential. O2 is at the forefront of championing technologies to provide real solutions for 5G and beyond, and we look forward to working with them towards our common goal.”
UK infrastructure company Arqiva and O2 are to deploy up to 300 outdoor small cells across London – one of O2’s biggest small cell installations so far.
The cells will increase the mobile network’s capacity and coverage in 14 boroughs. Rollout will start this summer and be completed in 2020 in areas where the demand for data is particularly high, such as close to transport hubs and around shopping areas. This long-term agreement between the two companies is intended to pave the way for the rapid deployment of 5G when it is available.
As their name suggests, these cells are tiny compared to the phone masts required by previous generations of mobile technologies. There are various kinds of small cells, but they are all low-powered cellular radio access nodes that can operate in licensed and unlicensed spectrum, and can have a range as short as 10 metres or up to a few kilometres.
Small cells can be attached to street furniture, including lampposts and the sides of buildings, and make efficient use of spectrum by re-using the same frequencies many times within a geographical area. This densification of networks will become increasingly commonplace as 5G will require a very high density of tiny antennae.
It will run on millimetre waves (mmwaves) which must be relayed between the antenna, around obstructions such as trees and buildings.
Saving £6 billion
O2’s research, ‘The value of 5G for cities and communities’ report, launched in March, claims that 5G will “update the operating system of our cities”, making them smarter and creating tangible benefits for citizens and local councils – contributing £6 billion in productivity savings to the UK economy through means such as smart energy grids, more efficient refuse collection and smart street lighting.
Arqiva has comprehensive concession contracts with 14 London boroughs, including within the boroughs of Hammersmith and Fulham, Richmond upon Thames, Wandsworth, Camden and Lambeth.
David Crawford, Managing Director, Telecoms & M2M at Arqiva, said, “New types of mobile infrastructure are now required to meet the needs of the mobile network operators and their customers. As demand for data continues to increase, the requirement for network densification will grow and use of street furniture and small cells will play a critical role in delivering the mobile networks of the future.”
Culture Secretary Sajid Javid today (Thursday) announces a landmark deal with the four mobile networks to improve mobile coverage across the UK.
As part of its long-term economic plan, the Government has secured a binding agreement with the mobile networks EE, O2, Three and Vodafone to tackle poor signal issues in so-called ‘partial not-spots’.
These are areas within the UK that have coverage from some but not all of the four mobile networks. Depending on the network consumers are on, they may have no coverage in these areas.
Under the agreement all four of the mobile networks have collectively agreed to:
a guaranteed £5bn investment programme to improve mobile infrastructure by 2017;
guaranteed voice and text coverage from each operator across 90 per cent of the UK geographic area by 2017, halving the areas currently blighted by patchy coverage as a result of partial ‘not-spots’;
full coverage from all four mobile operators will increase from 69 per cent to 85 per cent of geographic areas by 2017;
provide reliable signal strength for voice for each type of mobile service (whether 2G/3G/4G) – currently many consumers frequently lose signal or cannot get signal long enough to make a call; and
make the deal legally binding by accepting amended licence conditions to reflect the agreement – it will be enforceable by Ofcom.
No cash payments will be made by Government to the mobile networks as part of this agreement.
This deal will also result in cutting total ‘not-spots’ where there is currently no mobile coverage by two-thirds. This will support the Government’s existing £150m programme to take mobile coverage to the areas of the UK that have no coverage at all.
As a result of the agreement, many areas will receive better data coverage, some for the first time. During the recent consultation process, consumers made it very clear that they feel any solution should include better data coverage.
Culture Secretary Sajid Javid said:
“I am pleased to have secured a legally binding deal with the four mobile networks. Too many parts of the UK regularly suffer from poor mobile coverage leaving them unable to make calls or send texts.
“Government and businesses have been clear about the importance of mobile connectivity, and improved coverage, so this legally binding agreement will give the UK the world-class mobile phone coverage it needs and deserves. The £5bn investment from the mobile networks in the UK’s infrastructure will help drive this Government’s long-term economic plan.”
Whilst discussions with the mobile operators on a voluntary solution continued, the Government consulted on various legislative options in November 2014 to ensure that the issue of poor mobile coverage was addressed. This voluntary binding agreement secures a better deal for consumers and businesses as it:
will halve partial not-spots and reduce complete not-spots by almost two-thirds;
guarantees £5bn investment by mobile networks in the UK’s mobile infrastructure – potentially creating jobs and a boost for the UK economy; and
provides some of the best coverage of any major European country – underpinning the Government’s long-term economic plan.
As part of the agreement, the Government:
will bring this agreement to the attention of Ofcom in the context of their work to revise Annual Licence Fees – this is the subscription fee mobile networks pay Government;
intends to reform the out-dated and ineffective Electronic Communications Code to make it easier for the whole communications sector to rollout out new mobile and broadband services, and increase choice for consumers; and
is allowing many of the Government’s freehold buildings to be used as sites for mobile infrastructure – potentially opening up hundreds of sites to boost mobile coverage, including areas where is has been previously difficult to rollout network coverage.
EE CEO Olaf Swantee said:
“EE is focused on bringing the best voice and data service to its customers across the UK, and only last week announced 1,500 unconnected villages will soon benefit from EE coverage. This agreement ensures that our customers are able to stay connected in even more places up and down the country.”
Derek McManus, Chief Operating Officer of O2, said:
“A partnership between government and the mobile operators is required to maximise coverage across the UK, so this agreement is a good outcome for our customers. It will support investment in our network, while ensuring that strong competition remains between the different networks.”
Dave Dyson, Chief Executive of Three, said:
“We’ve doubled the size of our network in the past five years and we continue to invest to maintain a great network experience for our customers. Today’s agreement reflects the strength of our network today, our plans for the future and our commitment to bring its benefits to more people and more places than ever before.”
A Vodafone UK spokesperson said:
“We support the Government’s objective of delivering better coverage to rural areas including partial not spots. This is why Vodafone is already spending £1 billion on our network and services in the UK this year alone and will continue to spend a similar amount next year as well.
“The voluntary industry commitment we have agreed with the Government today will deliver 90 per cent of the UK’s land mass with voice services and a major improvement in mobile internet coverage as well. It is a great result for UK consumers and businesses and it will make the UK a leader across Europe in terms of the reach of mobile coverage.”
Mobile networks will now take forward their plans to improve mobile coverage and Ofcom will monitor progress regularly. The Secretary of State expects the operators to meet an interim goal in 2016, and will be receiving updates on this.
In a special article for Mobile News Magazine 02 business director Ben Dowd explains the opportunities 4G brings and how it can dramatically change our lives.
4G is the next logical step in the evolutionary world that is mobile technology.
It has businesses asking questions about the possibilities of 4G’s speed, and if this can really change how they work.
Looking back over this evolution, the first iteration of a new generation of connectivity came in the form of 2G, allowing us to call and message each other wirelessly. This dramatically changed the way we communicated.
However, at this stage sharing media required setting up Bluetooth, finding the other person’s device, and then singularly choosing what you wanted to send with painstaking waiting times.
Then 3G came along and once again revolutionised the mobile industry. It allowed us to get the internet on a device on the go, enabling employees to disregard the conventional fixed workspace and gave businesses more flexibility and connectivity.
However, we are living in a world where speed can always be faster and reach can always be further, so it was only a matter of time until the need for 4G arose.
Why do I need 4G?
While it is well documented that the speed of 4G is its differentiator, the question businesses have been asking us is, “What can 4G do for me?” Indeed, it provides up to five times faster communication speeds, but understanding the potential behind the 4G revolution as a result of these speeds is the real key to unlocking its benefits.
And one of the most amazing aspects of 4G is that it won’t just benefit larger enterprises, but small businesses from start-ups to one-man bands which rely on the internet will also be able to take advantage of 4G’s speed.
4G has the potential to guarantee limitless ways of working. There will be no more dashing to the office to log on to the Wi-Fi, just to download large documents to another device before a meeting; or returning to the office after meeting with a client, to simply add notes to a current presentation. Employees are able to edit directly on a device in the meeting room, and can therefore instantly send the updated version within minutes.
A contractor can make a video call to a structural engineer on a 4G-enabled tablet in a crisis situation and do a walk around of the building. This allows the structural engineer to make site assessments without leaving their desk, in turn enabling them to assist with more queries in a day’s work. Reports can be submitted instantly and wirelessly, and digital photo and video capture will simplify processes and reduce paperwork.
Healthcare is also no exception. Nurses out on their daily rounds are able to access up to date patient information in a heartbeat, even in homes which have no internet connection whatsoever. They would be able to update their records in an instant, meaning faster treatment for more patients. If there is a problem, they can then video conference in a specialist in order to assess a situation; thus allowing the specialist to assist with more cases per day as it will permit better remote management and monitoring, with a more accurate diagnosis.
Emergency services will also be able to find real value in using 4G. The police are enabled to use wireless video cameras on their person to record any problems and occurrences at huge events. 4G means seamless video streaming to a control room where police can have a better overview of the event, without any disruption in connectivity at crucial moments. GPS tracking allows them to oversee the event with real time tactical monitoring, allowing officers to arrive at a location faster, meaning better even mobility and preventative deployment.
Return on investment
Even small businesses can save on costs by using 4G. They will be able to purchase 4G dongles for their small team of employees, instead of using an expensive broadband service that eats in to their monthly allowance. The reality of the potential for retail businesses will be difficult to ignore, as the online shopping via mobile devices industry will experience a significant increase as customers have faster and more reliable internet speeds from which they can get their shopping satisfaction. An increase of £300 worth of sales per month would match their 4G solution investment, thus increasing profits by £60 a month. Multiply these figures for huge retail companies and the outcome and benefits as a result could be huge.
Technology will continue to change the world. Businesses are all connected because of the impact on productivity and flexibility the internet has had on our daily working lives. Take these same possibilities wirelessly, and the potential is impossible to ignore. With the technology coming in to place imminently, the responsibility now lies with businesses to ensure they are 4G ready and able to immediately capitalise on the opportunities it is already providing. The ultimate outcome is flexibility.
It is important that businesses really capitalise on this development, and don’t ignore the benefits and new capabilities that could make their organisation’s and, in turn, their customers’ lives easier. In a broader sense, and via the possibilities given, companies will see the productivity of their staff improve. This will then enable the business to progress at a faster rate as there will be an increase in products and services being offered and created as a result. Progressing ahead of their competitors will be the ultimate gain in having a 4G-enabled business, and the 4G world will be a better and more productive place as a result.
Telefónica UK selected as preferred communications service provider for Central and Southern regions in UK Smart Meter Implementation Programme
Contract value is £1.5bn over 15 years
Subject to contracts being agreed
Telefónica UK, which operates using the O2 brand, has announced that it has been selected as the preferred communications service provider for two out of three lots in the UK’s smart meter tender. The Smart Meter Implementation Programme is a major national infrastructure project that will involve the roll out of 53m gas and electricity meters across the UK by 2020, helping consumers to better understand and control their energy usage.
The deal to provide the communications services across the Central and Southern regions is worth £1.5bn over 15 years and is subject to contracts being agreed.
Commenting on the news, David Plumb, Digital & New Business Director of Telefónica UK, said: “Telefónica is extremely proud to have been selected by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) as a preferred bidder for the UK Smart Meter Implementation Programme. It’s a huge endorsement of cellular as the right communications technology and of our vision for smart meters to be the foundation of a smarter energy future for the UK. The decision is subject to contracts and we are working with the DECC on next steps and will be making a further announcement in due course.”
Telefónica’s proposed communications solution is based on its cellular network in the UK which is ready to support the requirement of smart meters. This will be backed up by the use of mesh technology to connect meters in areas without cellular coverage.
A further announcement will be made once contracts are in place.