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How to buy small cells

The commercial need for in-building cellular coverage is driving businesses to invest in small cells. But with an industry in flux is now the right time to do so? Sam Fenwick investigates

The quest for cellular signal can often be a frustrating one, especially in big cities. The new glass-covered buildings popping up across our skylines are built with materials that are both energy efficient and block RF signals. With land at a premium the trend towards greater use of basements is also making it harder to get a signal in many places.

And these signal problems are starting to affect businesses. Nick Johnson, CTO of ip.access, gives the example of a company in central London that provides shared workspace. It had less than 50 per cent occupancy and didn’t know why until a survey of people that had decided not to rent space made it clear a lack of multi-operator cellular coverage was the reason. “As soon as they provided that – at some expense – their occupancy levels rose to about 95 per cent,” he says.

Jonathan Freeman, director of small cells and in-building at Arqiva, says much of small cells’ appeal comes from helping employees work more flexibly and supporting bring your own device. However, if employees are free to choose their network operator then multi-operator small cells will be needed.

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