Mobile connectivity allows us to stay connected, communicate, and access information wherever we go.

Mobile Networks

Mobile phones work like two-way radios. They convert your voice into electronic signals, which are then transmitted as radio waves between mobile phones and macro-cells on masts or micro-cells on street furniture.  

Cellular Networks

The entire system of cell towers, base stations, and mobile devices is collectively known as a cellular network. When you use your phone, it connects to the nearest tower or base station. As you move, your phone automatically switches to the next tower or station, ensuring continuous connectivity.

Mobile Network Operators

The coverage you receive on your mobile phone (or tablet) depends on the strength of the signal you receive from your service provider.  There are four Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) in the UK: BT EE, Three, Virgin Media O2, and Vodafone. Whilst there is some mast sharing between MNOs, there are significant coverage differences at a local level. You may receive a poor signal or no signal at one location with a particular MNO whilst a different MNO at that location could have good coverage. It is important to check which operator has the best signal in the areas where you need coverage. Whilst it would appear there are more operators, the service providers such as Tesco Mobile or Giffgaff all use one of the MNO networks described above.

Ofcom has a checker that provides an indication of mobile coverage from each of the four MNO networks.

Mobile Data

Mobile data allows you to connect to the internet when you’re away from a Wi-Fi network. Your phone communicates with the nearest tower, which relays data to and from the internet gateway. This enables you to browse websites, use apps, and stream videos on the go.

    Generations of Mobile Technology

    Over the years, mobile networks have evolved through different generations:

    1G: The first generation provided basic voice calls. This was analogue technology and is no longer in use today.

    2G: Introduced text messaging (SMS) and is based on digital transmission making the network more secure. It is still in operation for some propriety networks but is being phased out for general transmission.

    3G: Enabled faster data transfer for web browsing and basic apps. This is also being phased out in lieu of 5G transmissions.

    4G: Brought high-speed internet, video streaming, and more advanced apps.

    5G: The latest generation promises even faster speeds, low latency, and support for smart devices and critical services. 

    More about 5G

    5G can allow users to download and upload content at speeds much higher than 4G.

    It has a low latency (latency is the time it takes for your phone to talk to the network) which means quicker responses. 5G can also handle more devices at once. So, your smart home gadgets can chat with each other seamlessly.

      Why Is 5G Important?

      5G, especially 5G Mobile Private Networks will revolutionise industries like healthcare, transportation, and manufacturing. Think remote surgeries, smart cities, and super-efficient factories. 5G networks are already live in many countries, with phone manufacturers already rolling out 5G phones. There are two types of 5G networks: 5G SA (Stand Alone) and 5G NSA (Non-Stand Alone. A 5G SA network has a 5G Radio Access Network (RAN) and a 5G Core Network whereas a NSA network deploys a 5G RAN whilst the core network is 4G LTE.

      5G Innovation Regions (5G IR)

      We are currently working on a 5G project known as England’s Connected Heartland (ECH). Visit this web page to find out more about the project.

      Find out more about England’s Connected Heartland. 

      Small Cells

      Mobile Small Cells are often required to improve mobile coverage at street level in urban areas where surrounding buildings create a ‘coverage shadow’ from any mast transmitters serving the area. They are low power transmitters and therefore more are needed to improve coverage.

      MNOs often look for assets such as street lighting columns which can be used to host the small cell transmitters. As such, our programme has reached Agreements with two Neutral Host Providers (A neutral host is a company that invests in telecommunications infrastructure such as cell towers, real estate, and fibre-optic networks, and leases this infrastructure to multiple service providers (CSPs) on a shared-tenant basis) to allow access to the council’s street furniture. This has led to a significant improvement in mobile coverage in central Oxford and we are keen to extend this to other parts of the county.

      Find out more about our Small Cells project.

      Smart Infrastructure Pilots Programme (SIPP) and Smart City

      The Digital Infrastructure and Innovation teams at Oxfordshire County Council will purchase c 15 smart, multi-purpose lighting columns (PAS 191 standard) which will be installed in Oxford for mobile and wireless connectivity services. The plan is for the columns to provide a ‘connected corridor’ from the revamped Oxford train station up to the city centre, which will provide opportunities for tourism, transport, local commerce, education, and other use-cases. If successful, the connected corridor would be extended to cover additional strategically important routes across the city.

      Find out more about the SIPP project.

      Digital Infrastructure Partnership

      We are ensuring a joined-up approach to mobile mast planning applications across the county, by way of the Digital Infrastructure Partnership. We also regularly engage with all four Mobile Network Operators and their industry body, MobileUK, to understand rollout plans for existing 4G coverage as well as the new high capacity 5G services.

      Shared Rural Network

      Under the £1bn Shared Rural Network, MNOs have agreed the basis to share mast infrastructure in rural areas to reduce the problem of partial coverage where only a subset of mobile networks have coverage. This is augmented by government funding to assist the business case for building mobile infrastructure in total ‘not-spots’. Across the UK, the programme will guarantee delivery of infrastructure to enable an additional 280,000 premises to receive 4G reception, as well as a boost to in-car coverage for c 45,000km of the highways network.

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