Neutral host company Cellnex has signed up Three UK as its first mobile customer on the busy London to Brighton Line. The supplier has a 25-year deal with Network Rail to provide enhanced connectivity along the route and Three is the first of the four UK mobile companies to sign up to use it.
The deal will give Three access to Cellnex’s recently deployed, trackside and station distributed antenna systems, which will cover the 51-mile mainline route.
According to Cellnex, customers of Three UK will be able to experience “noticeable improvements to their mobile and data connectivity from later this year”. It claims users will experience “uninterrupted connectivity” both onboard trains and at major stations, including Clapham Junction, Croydon, and London Victoria.
The Brighton line, which encompasses trains to and from Gatwick Airport and carries around 50,000 passengers per day, has long been notorious for its patchy and occasionally, non-existent, mobile coverage. This is due to the numerous tunnels and cuttings that it runs through. However, this will soon be overcome by the new network which promises 4G connectivity even in the tunnels.
David Crawford, Cellnex UK's managing director, said: "The lack of reliable connectivity along complete rail journeys is a frustration shared by many passengers and is something that Network Rail is keen to address.” He also pointed out that the project is in line with the Government’s Digital Strategy and Network Rail’s ‘putting passengers first’ vision.
Cellnex said that the infrastructure upgrades will include towers broadcasting mobile signals along the railway corridor, base station equipment rooms and high-capacity fibre. It will also see “bespoke radio equipment” installed at the main London stations, tunnels and cuttings in order to provide “uninterrupted coverage”.
According to Cellnex, the contract with Three exemplifies its ambitions to grow its neutral host business away from merely providing mobile towers and more into private networks and in-building solutions.
In March of last year, Cellnex was given the green light to acquire 6,000 sites from Hutchison, subject to the divestment of 1,000 overlapping Cellnex sites (since picked up by Wireless Infrastructure Group). This deal was finalised in November 2022.
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