Small Cells

What are Small Cells?

Small cells are small street-level boosters for mobile networks. They help to improve coverage and capacity in urban areas.

Macro-Cell Transmitters (On Masts) are the big cell towers you see on rooftops or tall monopole structures. They cover large areas but struggle when buildings get in the way. Their signals weaken or vanish when blocked by tall buildings or walls.

Small Cells fill the gaps left by macro-cells. Small Cells can be used in urban streets such as bustling city centres, crowded parks, markets, and busy squares. They help by providing better coverage and signal quality and can reduce network congestion. 

Small-Cell 4G and 5G Transmitters therefore play a crucial role in urban areas, especially at street level. 

How Do They Work?

Small cells use low-power antennas to transmit signals; they’re like mini cell towers, but closer to us.

Our Small Cells Projects in Oxford

Small Cells can be fitted onto existing street infrastructure such as lighting columns, so our Digital Infrastructure Programme team has been working on projects to roll out Small Cells in Oxford.

Project with Freshwave

In Autumn 2021, Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) signed an Open Access Agreement with Freshwave, a connectivity company that helps Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) set up Small Cell radio transmitters. We worked with Virgin Media O2 to set up Small Cells on 17 OCC lighting columns, which included 15 in Oxford City Centre and two on the outskirts. 

These locations went live in Autumn 2023.

Project with BT Wholesale

In February 2024 OCC agreed another Open Access Agreement this time with Home | BT Wholesale which will extend EE mobile coverage further in Oxford. So far, three Small Cells have been set up along the Oxford High Street, with conversations about additions ongoing.  

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