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Our 5G journey so far – lessons learned and improvements made

By 28 May 2021News

By Jon Freeman, Customer Installation Programmes Director

Like all new technology, 5G has had a few false starts. As we reach the second anniversary of its launch, I feel that this year we will truly see 5G start to take a prime role in the telecoms space.

With so many people working remotely and using collaboration tools or video calls to communicate during the pandemic, we’ve seen the continued demise of the traditional phone call. As our mobility starts to increase again 5G will play a key role in replicating this experience whilst we are on the move and embrace a more nomadic style of working. During these last two years, Cellnex UK has delivered over 1,000 5G upgrades, and by working closely with MNO partners, we have learned a great deal.

Investing in 5G infrastructure to give more workers around the country access to high quality, superfast connectivity is looking more and more crucial to keep as much of the economy as possible productive, working and, importantly, growing.

Different infrastructure implications

4G deployment saw us maximise the use of existing infrastructure – in essence, it was an equipment installation exercise. 5G has been very different, with the need for extensive infrastructure upgrades or replacement as there is no ‘spare’ capacity this time around.

In addition, the scale increase in equipment has required a greater level of upfront investment in upfront design expertise and resources along with a considerable amount of ingenuity to arrive at feasible solutions for each site. Once onsite, the complexity and duration of build activity have been up to four times greater – with each deployment being unique. To meet this challenge, we have had to significantly upskill our field teams to ensure we meet and are aligned with customer needs.

Future success requires simplification and automation

With most 5G upgrades and removal of high-risk vendors still ahead of us, now is the time to focus on improvement activity to transform output volumes and quality. At Cellnex UK, we seek to simplify our approach by developing standard project types, fixed price commercial models, and other initiatives with our customers and supply chain partners – the overarching aim is to remove blockers and accelerate delivery.

Our trials of new technology, such as drone surveys, have provided great data sets and insight. The focus now is on leveraging these approaches to automate activity, simplify designs and drive better ‘right first-time’ metrics to achieve greater throughput and more predictable cycle times.

As with any new technology deployment, there are things we would have liked to have foreseen. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, of course, and we are continuing to learn lessons and working hard to improve continually. All to ensure we deliver the best support to help MNOs realise their 5G strategies and for businesses and consumer to unlock the full potential of 5G.