Virgin Media O2 launched services in June 2021 as a joint venture between Liberty Global and Telefónica in the U.K.

U.K. carrier Virgin Media O2 said it installed more than 1,300 small cells across London, claiming the largest deployment of any major operator in the U.K.

The operator noted that this technology is enabling the company to accelerate its 4G and 5G rollout in a more environmentally friendly way while boosting capacity in certain areas.

The small cells, which typically have a range of 80-120 meters, can target congestion across the network and add capacity as required, Virgin Media O2 said.

The telco said that the small cells deployment in London is being carried out with a number of partners, including Cellnex UK, Freshwave, Ontix and the City of London.

The technology uses licensed L18 / 1800 MHz airwaves, with some initial trial locations using 2.6 GHz spectrum.

Virgin Media O2 also said it has developed a small cells solution which can be deployed within bus shelters. The trials, created in partnership with Freshwave, involve new small cells connected to fiber within bus shelters, which are also 5G ready. In a similar trial, Virgin Media O2 is also trialing a new payphone deployment across sites in Westminster with Cellnex UK.

Virgin Media O2 plans to expand its network outside London, with a number of pilots in play across the U.K. as the company considers that the successful trials open up the possibility of rolling out small cell solutions at scale across the U.K. to boost Virgin Media O2’s 4G and 5G networks.

Theo Blackwell, chief digital officer for London, said: “This is further good news for London’s digital infrastructure. It comes about through our partnerships on the ground between boroughs and telecommunications, supporting local rollouts. Small cells don’t just mean much better connections, they also boost jobs and growth, helping us to build a better London for everyone. It’s great to see this investment continuing across London.”

Jeanie York, CTO at Virgin Media O2, said: “Building a 5G network is a complex job, so we are constantly looking at ways to create efficiencies via collaboration with partners that will ultimately benefit our customers. Technologies such as small cells help us increase network bandwidth, which allows us to keep up with customer demand, with data traffic levels increasing 34% year on year.”

Virgin Media O2 launched services in June 2021 as a joint venture between Liberty Global and Telefónica in the U.K.

Liberty Global and Telefonica had reached an agreement to merge their U.K. operations in a 50-50 joint venture in May of 2020. That same month, the U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) decided to allow the proposed merger between mobile operator O2 and Virgin Media.

The company, which has committed to investing at least £10 billion (currently $12.04 billion) in the U.K., delivered 5G to over 2,000 sites across the country last year and now has 5G coverage in areas spanning 300 towns and cities. The operator had also committed to reach 50% of the U.K.’s population with its 5G services in 2023.