Fixing the small cell supply and demand challenge

Have Croydon Council and Freshwave cracked the UK’s outdoor 5G small cell supply challenge?

We believe they have made huge strides.

This autumn Freshwave and Croydon Council struck a deal to allow Freshwave to deploy its neutral host small cells on Croydon’s street furniture.

Any Operator, Council, Neutral Host or Fibre provider serious about 5G should look closely at the terms of this deal.

The terms have been published with the ambition to create a reference deal for use by other Councils and Telecoms Operators across the country.

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At Mentor we are massive fans. If this sort of deal is adopted nationally, it will unlock outdoor densification in the UK.

It sits alongside the JOTS (Joint Operator Specifications) Neutral Host standard just published by the UK’s Mobile Operators’ to turbocharge in-building small cells.

In April, we wrote about the UK’s slow progress in deploying outdoor small cells in the volumes that will be needed to support 5G deployment.

We described how the problem is more one of supply than of demand and the critical role Councils need to play in unblocking supply.

Find out how your business can take advantage of the 5G opportunity.


The Croydon / Freshwave deal

The Croydon / Freshwave deal unblocks the supply side. There are a lot of things to like about it:

1. An Open Access model

Any Code Operator can use Croydon’s street furniture, including a site another Operator is already using. Open access avoids the time, costs and procurement complexity of the old concession model – which has singularly failed to stimulate small cell deployment.

By using a standardised legal agreement for all Operators based on a DCMS standard agreement, engagement is straightforward and transparent.

2. Simplified Deployment I

By mandating the use of Croydon’s Street Lighting contractor to handle deployment and maintenance, the costs and complexities for deploying small cells are kept to a minimum

3. Simplified Deployment II

Straightforward planning permission where 4G/5G small cell sites are classed as ‘permitted development’ under the The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) (Amendment) (No. 2) Order 2016.

4. Compelling prices

A £4,000 one-off fee per Operator for Croydon, coupled with a low £300 per year per small cell rental fee and flexible term length from 5 to 12 years.


The only thing not included is the fibre connectivity – which is a significant part of the end-to-end solution.

In 5-years’ time, we believe the UK will be split into those Councils who adopt this style of Open Access approach – enabling digital connectivity to flourish in their cities – and those that cling to old over-priced concession approaches which will continue to disappoint.

An Open Access city like New York provides a great example of what is possible. Since 2016 more small cells have been deployed in NYC than there are total cells (macros + small cells) in greater London, a much larger area.

There’s never been a better time to join the party. We have worked with Mobile Operators, Fibre providers and Infrastructure players on inventive ways to meet the small cell challenge.

Email us and learn how you can benefit from this essential piece of network infrastructure.

Explore the 5G fibre deployment.