Neutral Hosts

Neutral Hosts: The Future of Telecoms Powering 5G Networks


A neutral host is a company that sets up and manages telecoms infrastructure, including in-building DAS and 5G mobile towers and then leases them to Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) and other Communication Service Providers (CSPs). Shared Access is an example of a neutral host company and operates across the UK & Europe with over 15 years of experience.

With the exponential growth of 5G networks, Internet of Things (IoT) devices and supercloud services, we’re all expecting faster and more reliable connections than ever before. Keeping up with these expectations has meant rethinking how we build and manage our networks – especially in urban environments.

What is a Neutral Host Network?

A Neutral Host Network (NHN) is a type of telecoms infrastructure that’s built and maintained by an independent connectivity operator like Shared Access, rather than by the MNOs themselves. This infrastructure is made available for lease to multiple MNOs and other service providers.

How does a Neutral Host operate?

The neutral host operates by allowing for more efficient use of resources enabling the sharing of essential network infrastructure, reducing the need for each operator to build and maintain their own separate networks. This approach facilitates wider and more cost-effective network coverage, supporting the rapid deployment of advanced technologies like 5G and enhancing service quality for end-users.

Infrastructure development

The neutral host invests in and sets up essential telecommunications infrastructure. This can include mobile towers, small cells, Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS), and fibre-optic networks. The infrastructure is designed to support wireless communication services across a broad spectrum, accommodating the needs of various service providers.

Partnership agreements

The neutral host forms agreements with MNOs and other service providers. These agreements outline the terms under which the infrastructure will be leased or rented to the providers. They cover aspects like access rights, service levels, usage fees and maintenance responsibilities.

Infrastructure sharing

Once agreements are in place, multiple service providers can access and utilise the shared infrastructure to deliver their telecommunications services to end-users. This model allows for more efficient use of the infrastructure, as it reduces the need for each provider to build and maintain its own network in the same area.

Maintenance and upgrades

The neutral host is responsible for the ongoing support, maintenance, management and upgrading of the infrastructure to ensure it meets the evolving demands of the service providers and their customers. This includes routine pre-agreed Service Levels Agreements (SLAs), maintenance, troubleshooting and enhancements to support new technologies like 5G integration.

Regulatory compliance

The neutral host must also navigate various regulatory requirements, ensuring that the infrastructure complies with local, regional and national standards. This involves securing necessary permits, adhering to safety standards and ensuring that the shared infrastructure does not interfere with other telecommunications systems.

Why are neutral hosts gaining popularity?

As cities continue to deploy 5G networks and as the need for advanced network infrastructures extends beyond conventional business Wi-Fi systems, the importance of neutral hosts in facilitating these developments is becoming ever more critical.

They facilitate rapid rollout

Neutral Host Networks (NHNs) are becoming increasingly crucial in the fast-paced deployment of next-generation wireless connectivity technologies, most notably 5G.

By offering infrastructure that’s already built and ready for use, NHNs remove the substantial burden and time requirement that MNOs would otherwise face in constructing their own network foundations. This pre-established infrastructure includes not only the physical components like cell towers and Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) but also the essential connections facilitated by fibre-optic networks.

They help reduce capital expenditures

The shared infrastructure model championed by Neutral Host Networks (NHNs) plays a pivotal role in minimising the capital expenditures (CapEx) typically associated with network development for mobile network operators (MNOs).

By sharing resources like towers, antenna systems, and fibre-optic cables, MNOs can bypass the hefty initial investments required to build these facilities independently. This cost-sharing approach extends beyond the mere physical structures to encompass the advanced technological systems needed for modern telecommunications, including those essential for 5G, IoT, and beyond.

The reduction in CapEx is not just about saving money; it’s about reallocating resources more strategically.

They encourage innovation

The presence of a ready-made, shared infrastructure provided by neutral hosts creates a fertile ground for mobile network operators (MNOs) and service providers to channel their energies and resources into innovation and the creation of new, value-added services.

This innovation-driven environment is essential for keeping pace with the escalating demands of the digital age and for ensuring that the telecommunications infrastructure remains robust, versatile, and future-ready.

The impact of neutral hosts on the future of telecoms

Neutral hosts are already becoming a cornerstone of telecommunications infrastructure, driven by their ability to enhance network efficiency, reduce deployment costs and accelerate the adoption of new technologies.

Integration of AI & Machine Learning (ML)

The integration of artificial intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) technologies into neutral host networks could lead to smarter, more adaptive networks capable of optimising performance in real-time, enhancing service reliability, and predicting maintenance needs.

Expansion into IoT & Edge Computing

As the Internet of Things (IoT) continues to expand, and Edge Computing gains prominence, neutral hosts will likely evolve to support the vast array of devices and applications reliant on ultra-low latency and high reliability.

Advancing in Virtualisation & Network Slicing

Technologies such as software-defined networking (SDN) and network function virtualisation (NFV) could enable more flexible and scalable neutral host architectures, allowing for customised network slices tailored to specific services or user groups.

As the industry moves towards more integrated and intelligent networks, neutral hosts will continue to play a pivotal role in enabling this transition, supporting the seamless delivery of services across a myriad of platforms and devices. The collaborative model fostered by neutral hosts could also pave the way for more equitable access to high-quality telecoms services, contributing to the bridging of digital divides and fostering inclusive digital growth.

For More Information

Our expert neutral host team brings a wealth of experience, particularly in crafting unique solutions such as in-building systems, private networks, and mast space leasing, which are critical components of a resilient network. For more information on maximising your site’s digital network efficiency and resiliency, click here to speak to one of our team.