Sign of the times – small cells meet bus shelters

Written by on February 16, 2015 in Opinion with 0 Comments

Bus shelterDuring the end-of-year holiday season in December you may have missed the news that JCDecaux, the world’s number one outdoor advertising company, announced that it had signed a global 15-year contract with Vodafone to deploy small cells on its street furniture assets.

This followed the success of a pilot project conducted in Amsterdam where over 160 small cells were installed on JCDecaux bus shelters to enhance network performance across the city.

JCDecaux will be responsible for designing, manufacturing and deploying the housing for the small cells in consultation with city councils and in accordance with local planning regulations (something it has extensive experience in) and Vodafone will install and manage the telecommunications equipment.

Is this a big deal? Well, yes, when you consider the cost and difficulty for mobile operators to deploy tower masts and associated base stations, particularly in high-density city areas. These are usually the highest demand areas as well, and those most subject to network overload. Strategically placed small cells will handle network off-load and fill many of those nasty little dead patches with coverage.

With over 100,000 street furniture assets across Germany, United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Netherlands, Ireland, Portugal, Australia, Qatar, Czech Republic, India, Turkey, Hungary and South Africa, JCDecaux is the ideal partner for Vodafone and should give it substantial advantages in both cost and rollout time, not to mention reduced interaction with planning authorities.

A joint press release stated: “Given that the quality of telecommunications infrastructure has become an important factor for cities’ attractiveness and competitiveness, with this contract JCDecaux shows that it can leverage its valuable assets also to offer connectivity solutions that combine dense urban infrastructure networks with aesthetic and innovative hosting solutions. Consequently, the Group believes it is contributing to the development of an ecosystem that supports improved urban connectivity and will further accelerate the roll out of Smart Cities.”

Smart ploy using the Smart Cities argument, but that may simply be the corporate marketing take on the marriage. One suspects the value for both parties may lie in the potential additional advertising revenue both might gain by combining signage with smartphone interaction, the massive savings Vodafone could make in cell rollouts and the increased revenue earning for rent of existing street architecture owned by JCDecaux.

However, JCDecaux small cells managing director Martin Sabbagh, was quick to point out that the deal with Vodafone was not exclusive and that his company was talking with other operators in highly competitive markets like Australia.

One wonders if we will soon see people waiting at bus shelters receiving massages on their handsets telling them to turn around to view the latest advertisement being displayed. Stranger still, what if the ads are tailored for the person based on their profile with the mobile operator? Scarier still, what if they add sound and the billboard/shelter calls out your name to get your attention as you pass by?

Oh no, I feel another technology panic attack coming on. When mobile operators and advertising giants get together there has to be more to it than small cell rollouts and rental revenue. I fear the worst.

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About the Author

About the Author: Tony is a freelance writer, regular speaker, MC and chairman for the telecoms and digital services industries worldwide. He has founded and managed software and services companies, acts a market strategist and is now Editor of DisruptiveViews. In June 2011, Tony was recognized as one of the 25 most influential people in telecom software worldwide. .

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