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Gaining Network Approval for In-Building Mobile Coverage

The past 12 months we’ve been hands on, working with a number of different clients ranging from developers, landlords, property consultants and enterprise end users, all of whom have the same needs in different environments; they all require legal, reliable in-building coverage for all Mobile Network Operators (MNO’s).

The interesting part for us, is the different design and delivery requirements from the MNO’s based on the location, occupancy and size of a building, all of which drastically affect the cellular frequencies we have to install that make up our In-Building Managed Service as well as what the building owner must choose in order for a design to be signed off by the MNO’s. After all, it is their spectrum and without their consent, a project cannot move forward.

A good example of this was a large development in central London consisting of 12,000 multi-tenant occupants. When we engaged with one of the big 3 operators, we were instructed that due to the size of the site, when it’s occupied, it would severely affect their macro network (negatively), not only because of the physical structure causing RF shadowing but also due to the drain of capacity from their network which is already under pressure given the dense population of the area.

The MNO's advice was, if an in-building coverage solution was to be installed and for them to approve a design and connect (this was free to connect for them), they would require the following cellular frequencies to be delivered via the solution - G900 (2G) U900 (3G) U900SC (3G) L800 (4G) L1800 (4G) L2100 (4G) L2300 (4G).

In the example of this building, the operator in question required a large range of cellular frequencies to be delivered or it would not be approved, which narrows the coverage solution that can be considered or used as most Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) and Small Cells are restricted to either 1 or 4 services they can radiate. For this site, we’ve been requested by a single operator for 7 services to be distributed throughout the development in order to guarantee the appropriate service for the tenants, not including the requirements of the other 2 networks that were needed. Today, many in-building coverage solution are software defined, meaning you can chop and change frequencies it radiates, however, their antennas are still restricted to 4 services which would mean a great deal of equipment is needed to ensure a design is signed off by the operators, making them expensive to install and manage. As Small Cells are still in their infancy in terms of large scale deployments and at present, the majority are 3G only, they again were not an appropriate technology.

The single optimum solution for this project was the Zinwave UNItivity 5000 Distributed Antenna system (DAS) due to its unique patented wideband architecture whereby over a single antenna/hardware layer it can deliver any mix of frequency ranges between 150Mhz and 2.7Ghz. In none-techy terms, this means all known mobile frequencies including the emergency services and 2 way radio. For the developer of this scheme, it was important that we highlighted, after reviewing technologies available on the market, Zinwave was the most appropriate coverage solution from both a commercial and technical perspective which was backed up by a major network operator directly to the client.

Had this of been a smaller development, be it for an enterprise client or a site with a few thousand users as opposed to 12,000, the networks would certainly not be so strict on services to be deployed which would give the client more flexibility on vendors but it is important to understand the in-building system capabilities you are considering to ensure it will be approved by the MNO’s and deployed effectively.

If you as a building owner or tenant want total reassurance that a solution being proposed by an integrator or service provider will be approved by the MNO’s for installation, ask that they put you in touch with some of the operators to discuss the project and services they wish to be delivered and ensure the solution being proposed can fulfil those requirements. Your trusted service provider should have no issues in organising this.

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