London’s wireless infrastructure copes with the connectivity demands of a lot of people – tourists from all corners of the world, the daily influx of workers into the city and a growing resident population. Mobile network capacity, coverage, and reliability are critical as nearly everyone requires connectivity in this technology-reliant age. In his ambition to make London a world-class, pioneering smart city, London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, has placed mobile connectivity at the top of his priority list. So, with the public clamouring for improvements, we took to the streets of London with London Live, to show how performance varies between operators and the areas where improvements need to be made.

A growing demand

The public’s appetite for faster, more reliable mobile connectivity is growing by the day. According to London Live, regulator Ofcom believes that by 2024 there will be 156 million connected smartphones, tablets and other devices across the UK. 30 million of these will be in London. In addition, the Mayor intends to make London a “Gigabit City” – to enable download speeds of 1,000 megabits per second.

As a result, operators will continue to face demands to improve speeds, improve coverage, and ensure reliability at all times. Building additional infrastructure in London including new sites, backhaul, equipment, and systems will require a significant amount of planning and investment from the mobile operator including coordination and cooperation with the City of London. The Mayor has been proactive in this regard such as easing requirements by allowing street furniture (for example, lampposts, signposts, and traffic signal poles) to be used for small cell deployment to improve network coverage, but this isn’t without its own challenges.

Testing will be crucial

Network testing companies like GWS play an important role in the development of the country’s current and future networks. With our industry-leading testing methods, we can efficiently yet thoroughly benchmark problematic areas and identify not-spots across all available wireless networks using a variety of mobile devices and test equipment. Our robust testing allows us to highlight areas where strengthening signal coverage or taking other actions to optimize performance would be beneficial. To put into context — we determine where in the network opportunities exist for operators to make changes and improve customer experience (such as installing small cells on street furniture).

GWS’ testing sets itself apart due to its comprehensiveness, quality, and rigour. Our benchmark testing focuses on customer experience and satisfaction as they relate to network performance. We perform drive, walk and in-venue performance tests using scientific methods in a controlled environment. We also access key device metrics which aren’t available in other forms of testing, like Layer 3 data. This helps us to get to the root of issues, to do a detailed assessment that is combined with key network performance data – and ultimately provide operators with the most optimal solution to improve their network.

A brighter, smarter future

The work we do to assess and benchmark major operators’ services is underpinning a very bright future for the UK’s wireless connectivity. EE recently became the first MNO to demonstrate a near Gigabit performance on their LTE network. During a football match at Wembley stadium, EE achieved download speeds of 765 Mbps and upload speeds of 110 Mbps. O2 has also provided an exciting glimpse of the advanced opportunities available. In Aberdeen, O2 and the Wireless Infrastructure Group (WIG) have installed the UK’s first fibre connected small cell network. While it enables the quickest download speeds currently available, it also provides the infrastructure required for 5G and a look into the near future. Stay tuned for updates on how we’re helping to usher in the new era of connectivity for the UK’s consumers and businesses alike.