The Wireless Infrastructure Group (WIG) has raised £220 million in a debt funding round to invest in neutral-host ‘5G-ready’ wireless infrastructure in the UK.
The funders include Met Life, Barings, Vantage, Lloyds, Royal Bank of Scotland and Barclays. The funding input, which is over 12 years, will allow Edinburgh-based WIG to ramp up its capital expenditure in rural and urban areas, and along transport routes.
In the last year, WIG has invested in wireless infrastructure such as communications towers for rural communities, and high capacity Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) networks for indoor and densely populated environments such as offices, shopping centres and Liverpool’s Anfield football stadium.
The latest funding will be used to support the roll-out of new infrastructure with a focus on small cells and fibre. WIG estimates that over 100,000 small cells will be needed in the UK over the next decade to meet capacity demand and deliver 5G.
Neutral host infrastructure offers a shared platform which is open to all mobile network operators (MNOs) and supports various technologies, rather than each cell being focused on a particular MNO or technology.
WIG recently rolled out the UK’s first small cell network which supports C-RAN (centralised radio access network) technology in the UK. C-RAN technology is new to the UK but is already used extensively in the US. With C-Ran, the baseband processing for many cells is centralised. The benefits of this approach include improved performance through coordination between cells and cost reductions through pooled resources.
The company is also a key investor in the Midlands Future Mobility initiative – the UK’s largest connected and autonomous vehicle (CAV) testbed.
Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review
In the Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review, published in July, the government put forward a number of recommendations to ensure the majority of people in the UK have access to 5G (which WIG’s work will help with), and that by 2025 15 million premises are able to connect to full fibre broadband. By 2033, the government expects the UK to have broadband coverage across the whole UK.
WIG CEO, Scott Coates, commented: “The new facilities will be targeted on fibre and small cells to enable better connectivity both inside buildings where 80% of calls are made and along busy city streets.
“Attracting investment with a long-term horizon and neutral-host approach can play a significant role in enabling 5G across the UK. Recent policy initiatives announced in government’s Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review around lightly licensed spectrum and other innovations opens doors for companies like WIG to work with our mobile operator partners to unlock faster investment and enable improved mobile connectivity.”
Useful read: What is 5G?