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BT Openreach Launch New Rural Mobile Infill Solution to Tackle UK Notspots

Thursday, September 25th, 2014 (8:36 am) - Score 3,475

BTOpenreach recently completed a field trial of a new Mobile Infill Infrastructure Solution (MiiS), which is designed to leverage BT’s existing fixed line network in order to deliver mobile services into areas that suffer from “non-existent or patchy” coverage, and has now made the product available to mobile operators and ISPs across the United Kingdom.

Unfortunately bringing mobile coverage into some areas can be fraught with difficulty, such as the high cost of building new infrastructure and capacity. But Opeanreach hopes that operators will be attracted to MiiS as an alternative, which can enable micro-cell sites by using BT’s existing telegraph poles (excluding in Northern Ireland) to position antennas, which are supported by powered Street Cabinets (MNO customers install radio equipment into these and use licensed spectrum to provide mobile coverage).

MiiS – How does it work?

You and your MNO customers will be able to select pole locations of your choice from the large catalogue of existing Openreach poles. These will be surveyed by Openreach to confirm suitability. Once a suitable site is selected you will be able to choose from a number of antenna variants covering both 3G and 4G mobile spectrum:

• 696MHz to 960MHz 2 sector antenna
• 1710MHz to 2690MHz 2 and 3 sector antennas

In addition to this a street cabinet will be deployed close to the chosen pole site and will be supplied with power and will support radio equipment from a number of mobile equipment vendors. The cabinet will also be able to support the provision of suitable connectivity products from the Openreach portfolio in order for you to connect the site to your network and backhaul radio traffic. Note the provision of the circuit is not part of this product and will need to be ordered and purchased separately.

One potential secondary advantage of a product like this is through the benefit from having an additional investment incentive, which could make it more economical for BT to expand their superfast broadband (FTTC/P) network into more remote locations (provided they can get mobile operators interested in the same areas).

At the time of writing we do not yet know which operators plan to make use of the service, although clearly there must be some interest otherwise Openreach wouldn’t have built it. The new MiiS product will officially become available to order from the 23rd October 2014.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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16 Responses
  1. Avatar Patrick Cosgrove says:

    “In addition to this a street cabinet will be deployed close to the chosen pole site ……”

    No damn good if you haven’t got a green cabinet for miles.

    1. Avatar TheFacts says:

      Please explain. This is a product for mobile operators.

    2. Avatar Steve Jones says:

      I think he just means that you can only install these micro-cells close to green cabinets (as, presumably, that’s where they get both power and comms from). Just how much reach the mobile micro-cell will have will depend on the power available, local topography, height of the telegraph pole and so on. I’ve no idea what the potential reach will be for these micro-cells, but if it was (say) 500 metres, you’d have to be within 500 metres of a green cabinet. However, if it was (say) 4km, then much more of the country could be covered.

    3. Avatar TheFacts says:

      The street cabinet is a new cabinet for the mobile kit.

      This is getting difficult…

  2. Avatar Col says:

    If we had fibre to the DP this system would make good sense.
    As well as mini mobile cells you could have wifi as well.

  3. Avatar GNewton says:

    So can this be used as a replacement for the copper last mile, or (non-existing) VDSL, in rural areas? Presumably the backhaul up to near the enabled pole is fibre anyway, isn’t it?

  4. Avatar Matthew Williams says:

    From what I remember this is meant to bring fibre to the poles in bad areas like how at current the fibre goes to masts. But obviously as these would be going to poles it will help with residential FTTC/P rollouts.

    1. Avatar DTMark says:

      But the availability of fibre at poles is, to (mis-)quote Openreach, “non-existent or patchy”.

      We do have gaps in coverage around here which could be filled by this solution, but Openreach don’t have any connectivity here either, just one or two meg down and near zero up (ADSL2+). The nearest thing that could be described as connectivity is at the exchange a mile and a half away.

      It would have to be a fibre based solution, surely, ADSL isn’t going to cut it and VDSL is going to struggle too unless the take-up is so pitiable that you’d then wonder why the product came to bear in the first place.

    2. Avatar TheFacts says:

      The connectivity is dedicated fibre to the mobile operator, nothing to do with DSL.

    3. Avatar Steve Jones says:

      This is not infill for things like fixed-line broadband, it’s meant as a cost-effective method for mobile operators to “in-fill” gaps in their coverage by putting in cheap micro-cells with power and (fibre) comms readily available from the nearby powered green cabinet.

      I suspect it is of relatively little use for broadband infill as I the reach of the micro-cells (at least at high speeds) might even be inferior to VDSL over copper from the cabinet.

    4. Avatar DTMark says:

      I’d have thought that wireless would be more potentially performant than copper, it’s not very difficult to outperform and we’re only talking about relatively small pockets of areas with (I guess) small numbers of subscribers.

      But leaving that aside I still struggle to see who would use these.

      Again with here as an example, the two sites that a couple of operators might be interested in for infilling purposes are a) in the middle of a field and b) on the side of a dual-carriageway. There is no fibre that I know of anywhere near these.

      It’s no use pointing at where cabinets, poles or exchanges already are. So are Openreach going to offer an affordable build and provision to such locations that is actually cheaper in the long term than a provider building and owning their own infra?

    5. Avatar TheFacts says:

      Connectivity, using fibre, is provided to the site as required.

      Note the provision of the circuit is not part of this product and will need to be ordered and purchased separately.

    6. Avatar DTMark says:

      So who is this product for then?

      We all know it costs squillions of pounds to run a few hundreds of metres, maybe even a couple of km, of fibre. Then there’s the profit to go on top of that.

      All for £15 a month with the latest iPhone in pink and 30000 minutes a month servicing maybe a dozen users.

      If fibre to the “pole” were ubiquitous I could see this being a saleable product at an affordable price.

      But since it is “non-existent or patchy” I’d have thought the appeal of this will be necessarily very limited, judging by BT’s record, it seems about 50 to perhaps 100 years too early to launch it 😉

    7. Avatar TomD says:

      It might well help mobile operators extend their coverage of the road network, I guess

    8. Avatar GNewton says:

      It looks like this product is nothing more than an offer from BT to use some of its telegraph poles (plus power) instead of a mobile provider having to build his own mobile masts. It doesn’t seem to address any new real worlds needs which wouldn’t have been covered already by mobile telecoms.

    9. Avatar TheFacts says:

      It is a product for mobile companies, everybody understand?

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