Ericsson on Monday announced a new partnership with Dutch electronics firm Philips to combine energy-saving street lights with mobile network equipment in a bid to help operators to densify their networks in urban areas with minimum impact on the appearance of the city centre.

Cities need a lot of connectivity and it is becoming harder for operators to gain access to rooftops to install base stations, Ericsson CEO Hans Vestberg explained at Mobile World Congress. The Zero Site solution, as it is known, allows them to install their equipment inside lamp posts instead.

With this initiative with Philips, "operators…will have the possibility to get a much denser network," he said.

The solution allows Philips to sell energy-efficient LED lighting to cities, on a "lighting as a service" basis, Philips CEO Frans van Houten said, noting that with energy savings of 50%-80% over current street lighting, the system will pay for itself. Mobile operators that use Ericsson equipment for their mobile broadband networks will be able to rent space in the poles for their kit.

It's a "double whammy," van Houten said.

The firms have their first proofs of concept with some joint customers, he added.

"You need to collaborate in the new networked society," Vestberg said, predicting more similar partnerships to come.

The lighting solution is designed around Ericsson's small cells portfolio, one of its key areas of focus at this year's MWC.

Also on Monday the equipment maker announced that SingTel will trial its Radio Dot System, the tiny indoor small cell it unveiled in September. SingTel joins a growing list of operator trialists, including Telstra, Vodafone and Softbank, "and a lot of others signing up for trials," Vestberg said.

Verizon Wireless is also a trial customer.

"We're anxious to have the product," Verizon Wireless CTO Tony Melone said on Monday.