The Next Generation of In-Building Cellular Services Is Here

Following the successful trial of multi-operator small cells in 2019 we are very pleased to announce our next ground-breaking feature adding to our capability in this area.

Post-pandemic life in general has underlined the need for us all to be connected everywhere. In our working lives, where we conduct that work will be less predictable than ever before, so it’s vital that the access to the mobile networks is present in terms of good coverage and capacity.  In common with Covid-19, it seems the need for in-building cellular is here to stay. With the arrival of 5G, thin ICT architecture and users bringing their own device are all driving the need for solutions to be multi-operator.

This change is welcome and all very well, but it brings a challenge to the MNOs: how can they deliver solutions in a controlled, efficient manner and in a way that does not weaken the networks, with 3rd party Neutral Hosts being granted access to their cores?

This challenge was one accepted by The Joint Operator Technical Specification forum, the industry body who, since 1999, have been responsible for setting the UK standard for design and operation of multi-operator, indoor coverage solutions.

The JOTS panel of representatives, drawn from all four MNOs, worked together to prescribe a set of requirements for the integration of multi-operator Small Cells, distinct from the general guidelines for Distributed Antenna Systems, which do not afford the Neutral Host access to the MNOs core. The new standard has been given the title JOTS Neutral Host In-Building specification, or JOTS NHIB.

So once again, as it was with the original JOTS specification back in 1999, the UK is first to address the new Small Cell technologies. The standard sets out how independent Neutral Hosts are to design, build and operate multi-operator small cells.

The arrival of the JOTS NHIB standard is of huge importance, with all the stakeholders standing to benefit from having a standardised way to work – bringing security, efficiency and much improved agility. The culmination of a two-year joint effort by all four Operators, the standard was signed off by all four in October 2020.

Having been heavily involved in lobbying the sector for the adoption and industrialisation of Small Cells, particularly for use in the Enterprise sector, and a vocal advocate of the JOTS group’s efforts to create this standard, our in-house team were delighted. We immediately secured the funding to begin construction of our own commercial instance of the Platform.

Having completed all the stringent test phases, working closely with the team at Virgin Media O2 (to whom we owe a great deal of gratitude) our Platform is now connected to its first commercial site, one owned by British Land and located in the heart of the City of London. This exciting first development will be added to quickly over the coming months.

With Virgin Media O2 and Vodafone now on board, our intention is to be in the same position with the remaining two MNOs before the end of 2021.

“I’m a great believer in the value that ExcelRedstone brings to the In-Building Cellular coverage market. With the launch on our JOTS NHIB platform we will be able to meet both the MNOs and our Enterprise customers desire to simplify the roll out process for IBC in their buildings, using solution architecture that at last falls in-line with that of their other SMART ICT systems they operate.”

Matt Salter – Director of SMART Technologies, ExcelRedstone

 

“Our customers demand great service and connectivity, so at Virgin Media O2 we constantly strive to improve and grow our network to meet that challenge. We are now excited to adopt a new technical approach to providing cellular coverage inside buildings. It is based on the Neutral Host In-Building (NHIB) technique, an initiative led by Virgin Media O2 and standardised within the Joint Operators Technical Specification (JOTS) forum. Working with our neutral host partners we are looking forward to delivering great in-building 4G coverage and capacity to our customers more quicky, more efficiently and yet with a smaller carbon footprint than ever before. We are at the beginning of a journey that will transform the way people think about in-building cellular coverage and we, at Virgin Media O2, are proud to be leading the way.”

Omar Calvo – Director of Radio Engineering at Virgin Media O2