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Virgin Media O2 Make Live UK Calls Over New Indoor Mobile Tech

Thursday, July 15th, 2021 (10:07 am) - Score 7,536
mobile_network_signal_tower_uk_illustration

O2 (VMO2) has just become the first UK mobile operator to make live calls from its network using a new Neutral Host In-Building (NHIB) mobile specification, which makes it possible for multiple operators to serve indoor mobile (4G and 5G) coverage to businesses and public venues – somewhat of a complementary approach to OpenRAN.

The solution, supported by Freshwave and CommScope, was deployed at an unspecified business site in London’s Canary Wharf area. The Joint Operator Technical Specifications (JOTS) Neutral Host In-Building (NHIB) specification is simply an agreed technical standard for connecting “shared in-building radio solutions based on 4G small-cell technologies” – this standard is supported by O2, EE, Vodafone and Three UK.

NOTE: A Neutral Host system essentially allows a third-party to build the infrastructure that mobile operators can all then potentially harness, as opposed to using operator-specific kit and services.

The new specification is intended to reduce the complexity around a neutral host providing indoor mobile coverage to businesses. The idea is complementary to Open Radio Access Network (O-RAN) technology, which seeks to standardise the design and functionality of RAN kit and software (masts and antennae etc.), thus increasing the number of companies able to supply operators via vendor-neutral hardware and software-defined technology (i.e. as opposed to being stuck with just Nokia and Ericsson etc.).

Omar Calvo, Director of Radio Engineering at VMO2, said:

“Customer experience and mobile connectivity is central to our values and the businesses we support. To deliver a great Virgin Media O2 network experience inside buildings, we are joining with several different industry partners, including Freshwave, to build state-of-the-art shared in-building small cell solutions.

This technology is aligned to the new JOTS Neutral Host In-Building (NHIB) specification, an initiative led by Virgin Media O2. I’m proud to say Virgin Media O2 is the first UK mobile network operator to support live calls on NHIB small cells and we see this as an exciting milestone for Virgin Media O2 and we believe it will transform the way mobile coverage is delivered into offices and indoor public venues.”

All operators have an active interest in this technology, so you can expect to see a lot more of it in the future.

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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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9 Responses
  1. Dave says:

    Do we know when Virgin Mobile will move over to using O2’s network? Still seems to be Vodafone for me.

    1. David says:

      They have a 5 year agreement with Vodafone.

    2. Mark Jackson says:

      Strictly speaking, they might be able to start moving “new” (not existing) customers over a little sooner than that, but for the immediate future Vodafone’s MVNO platform is what you’ll get on Virgin Mobile.

    3. Joe says:

      I would be happy with Vodafone, the O2 network isn’t that great. I had been with O2 for about 5 years and the only thing remotely decent was the signal.

      4G would feel like dial-up, pages often not loading and YouTube videos constantly buffering.

    4. Dave says:

      @Joe yes I’ve had no problem with Vodafone, it’s just I often go camping in pretty remote locations and want to make sure I’m looking at the right signal checker.

    5. Damien says:

      They took me over from EE to Voda in March on 4G – that was the last straw for me so I left and went back to EE

  2. Buggerlugz says:

    Isn’t this a type of bridge mode just using different carriers though?

  3. Damien says:

    Dam. I can’t even get a decent O2 signal where I am – good on them. Oh this is for headlines not actual customers – my bad!

  4. Mr James Body says:

    I wonder where the ‘unspecified location’ in Canary Wharf is?

    Having spent a few years working in a Canary Wharf office, I have lots of experience of how poor MNO coverage can be in an area in which all of the UK MNOs claim to have 100% coverage!

    We ended up spending a HUGE amount of money to get an in-building DAS system installed – and that did not work particularly well either…

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