Facilitating the next generation of mobile connectivity

Harrow Council has created a procurement framework to help public bodies host the new small cell mobile infrastructure needed for the next generation of digital connectivity. This case study forms part of our digital experts resource.


The issue and context

With growing demand for faster and improved mobile connectivity and the need for data expected to double annually, a new type of digital infrastructure will be needed in urban, and some rural areas, to improve mobile coverage. One way to do this is through the use of ‘small cell’ base stations.

Small cells or ‘micro cells’ are low powered mobile signal stations used by mobile operators to increase network capacity or extend service coverage in specific areas. Initially designed for resident and small business use, they are called ‘small’ cells as they have a shorter signal range than mobile macrocells, which are typically used for mobile signal or WIFI coverage in the UK – a small cell will have a range of a few metres to a few hundred metres, which is about ten times less than the range of a macrocell. Small cells are much cheaper to install and run than macrocells, making it economically feasible to provide mobile coverage to much smaller communities.

To roll out 5G (the next generation of mobile connectivity) almost half a million micro cells will be needed in London alone. Many of these could be placed on council-owned infrastructure and would need individual agreements between the providers and councils to be installed.

As such, the London Borough of Harrow has established a procurement framework to be used by other public bodies to appoint suppliers of small cell equipment and save time and costs on agreeing placements of individual cells. The framework is ready-made, simple and quick for councils to access, delivering value for money and enabling councils to swiftly install microcells on council buildings.

Who can use this framework?

Harrow have made the framework available for use nationally by public sector bodies, including:

  • local authorities
  • NHS bodies
  • educational establishments (including universities)
  • police and emergency services
  • central government departments and agencies
  • registered charities
  • Transport for London
  • national parks authorities.

Benefits of using this framework

  • The companies listed on the framework have excellent reputations and a proven track record of delivering the service requirements. There is no requirement to advertise to a wider group of suppliers.
  • The framework is OJEU compliant and there is no need for a standstill period. Users need only run a mini-competition, saving the significant time and money associated with conducting a full tender process.
  • Conducting a mini competition between those suppliers on the framework enables public sector bodies to refine their requirements whilst retaining the benefits offered under the framework agreement.
  • The terms and conditions of the agreement have already been established, but each contracting authority reserves the right to supplement and refine the call-off terms and conditions.

Procurement overview

The procurement process for the framework itself was conducted via the EU ‘Open’ tendering procedure and the evaluation of bids included both ‘Qualification’ and ‘Technical’ stages.

Now the framework is in place, users will need to conduct a mini competition of the five suppliers that are included on the framework to meet their specific needs. This will enable them to demonstrate value for money.

More information on the procurement and management of the framework can be found in the

Small cells framework user guide.

How can I access the framework?

To find out more and receive a copy of the Small cells framework user guide and access agreement, please register your interest on the Harrow Council webpage or email Joe Delafield at procurement@harrow.gov.uk and we will get back to you as soon as possible.