Virgin Media O2 (VMO2) trialled the use of smart poles built on top of its existing fibre network to boost mobile connectivity coverage in the UK, a move the company pitched as the country’s first.

In a statement, VMO2 explained the 4G and 5G smart poles are smaller than traditional masts and do not require planning permission, cutting the time and costs associated with installing mobile infrastructure.

Working with Liberty Global, which has a 50 per cent stake in the UK operator, the smart poles were deployed next to VMO2’s fibre network street cabinets and are powered by a new “digital electricity technology”, which transmits power from the cabinets in the area along with fibre optic cables. Small cells installed at the top of the pole will boost the capacity of local mobile network, improving performance and services for users in dense urban areas.

In addition to cutting red tape, VMO2 claims the use of smart poles reduces the need for “a separate backhaul connection or dedicated electricity supply and can help avoid a potentially time-consuming planning process”.

The company also described the innovation as a more sustainable way to upgrade network infrastructure.

CTO at VMO2 Jeanie York said its ability to use its fixed network to backhaul and power small cells could help it “save time and money, open up new revenue streams, support smart city technology and fully leverage the benefits of our scaled converged network”.

VMO2 operates around 25,000 street cabinets that are connected to the national grid, and the company stated the cabinets could power the new smart poles, paving the way for a wide-scale rollout.

The smart poles could also be used to power other smart city solutions and provide charging points for electric vehicles in the future, opening up new monetisation opportunities for the company.