Home EuropeEurope I 2013 In-building wireless set for dramatic growth on a global scale

In-building wireless set for dramatic growth on a global scale

by david.nunes
Håkan Samuelsson Issue:Europe I 2013
Article no.:9
Topic:In-building wireless set for dramatic growth on a global scale
Author:Håkan Samuelsson
Title:Chief Technical Officer (CTO)
Organisation:Axell Wireless
PDF size:223KB

About author

Håkan Samuelsson is the CTO of Axell Wireless. Mr Samuelsson was previously in the Swedish Broadcasting Industry and founded Avitec AB in 1984.

Article abstract

The global in-building market is experiencing an intensive period of growth with some 80 per cent of mobile traffic now emanating from within buildings. Fibre-DAS technology is integral to the development of wireless coverage in-building and is playing a key role in driving the market forward.

Full Article

In September 2012, a report from ABI Research predicted that the global market for in-building wireless equipment was set to amass US$2 billion by 2013, with active Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) accounting for 50 per cent of this total revenue. The global in-building market has indeed undergone a rapid period of growth, with operators all over the world increasingly keen to invest in DAS technology.

Operators turning networks ‘inside-out’

It is increasingly evident that mobile operators are moving their networks indoors. With some 80 per cent of mobile traffic now emanating from within buildings, there is a critical need to cater for an ever increasing demand for in-building mobile broadband access. The UK regulator, Ofcom, has underlined this obligation even further, stipulating that 98 per cent of the UK population must have access to in-building Long Term Evolution (LTE) services by 2017. Additionally, in October 2012, the GSA (Global mobile Suppliers Association) acknowledged 105 live LTE deployments in 48 countries with that figure estimated to rise to 195 live networks in 72 countries by the end of 2013. The global adoption of LTE has helped to affect a rapid period of growth in the ‘in-building’ wireless market, as mobile operators become ever more aware of the need to deliver reliable and seamless coverage for mobile data consumption indoors.

In what marks a significant shift in mind-set from a few years ago, mobile operators from all over the world are now building their networks from the ‘inside-out’ rather than the ‘outside-in.’ While the introduction of LTE services has undoubtedly played a key role, it should be noted that the standard has not been the sole driver in affecting this transition. Information from those operators that have already gone live with LTE indicates that the standard will not initially account for a large percentage of the total subscriber base. Operators will still, therefore, need to support multiple, existing frequency bands, including legacy 2G and 3G services. In fact, many operators are now seeking to re-farm existing frequency bands to provide additional support to 2G and 3G standards. The mobile operators that have already deployed LTE or are in the trial stages have taken these factors into consideration when implementing an in-building coverage solution.

Fibre distributed antenna systems – a technological overview

The majority of modern buildings are constructed from materials that attenuate radio frequency (RF) signals. For smaller buildings, femtocell or picocell deployments can deliver coverage effectively, but can only offer limited levels of connectivity. Larger structures such as airport terminals, shopping centres, office blocks and stadiums need a more robust and flexible solution, such as a Fibre DAS. Fibre DAS’ combine high and low power repeaters, within a single installation, and allow operators to cost-effectively tailor a reliable in-building coverage solution for complex structures, providing coverage and capacity to support large numbers of subscribers in enclosed spaces.

The basic principle behind Fibre DAS involves a Base Station Hotel – multiple base stations deployed in a single location – that feeds cellular signals into an Optical Master Unit (OMU).The OMU can support RF frequency bands from FM, VHF and UHF frequencies up to 2.6 GHz. It converts the RF carriers into modulated light, which is then distributed via a fibre network into multiple optical remote units, installed throughout the structure. These remote units then work to disperse cellular coverage throughout the building. Fibre DAS allows operators to ‘re-farm’ spectrum in accordance with which technology they choose to run. Equally, the technology is capable of supporting multiple operators in a single installation, working together in a shared infrastructure project.

A flexible, adjustable solution

However, the key benefit of Fibre DAS is that it enables operators to support a bespoke mixture of high and low power remote units in a single installation. A shopping mall for example, will incorporate both large open spaces and smaller, individual shops. The more open spaces can be catered for with a higher power remote unit, whereas the smaller shops can be covered with lower power remotes. Composite constructions such as this would previously have required the installation of multiple in-building solutions, but the flexibility and adaptability of Fibre DAS has eliminated this constraint. The ability to comprehensively cover complex structures with a single installation dramatically lowers the cost of an in-building solution for operators.

In a traditional DAS solution, copper was used to link the remote antennas, but the addition of fibre has allowed more physical flexibility, and has therefore markedly reduced signal losses at high frequencies. When combined with adaptable equipment that is able to support multiple bands, this ability to more effectively deal with high frequencies means that once installed, a Fibre DAS solution will not need to be replaced for many years. In a rapidly moving industry, new technologies and standards are regularly introduced, but owing to integrated Software Defined Radio (SDR) technology, the upgrading process need not be physically disruptive. SDR is fitted into off-air repeaters and allows operators to specify and adjust sub-band allocations on a remote basis, through software updates. This means that physical modification is no longer necessary and structural disturbance to the building can be avoided. GSM, UMTS, LTE, or even a combination of technologies can be remotely accounted for using SDR technology.

In-building coverage goes global

In-building wireless systems based on Fibre DAS technology are being adopted on a global scale as operators ramp up their all-IP networks to support the growing demand for mobile broadband access within buildings and public spaces. This major development in mobile communications has resulted in service providers, estate and landowners installing sophisticated Fibre DAS systems into new, and existing, structures. This includes iconic structures such as the Burj Khalifa, which standing at over 800 metres is the world’s tallest building, as well as the 15km tunnel connected to Brisbane airport in Australia. The Channel Tunnel that links the UK with Continental Europe is now equipped with Fibre DAS technology following a recent installation. Last but not least, one of the most sophisticated Fibre DAS installations to date has been the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games held in London. The Olympic Park was covered by a network configuration of over 300 remote units connected to a base station hotel, with 46 remote units deployed in the Olympic Stadium alone.

LTE adoption continues to increase at a rapid rate driving the growth of the in-building wireless sector. The USA has led the market with Verizon deploying its nationwide 4G network. Verizon was an early adopter of the standard but will soon face competition from the likes of AT&T and Sprint, which is ramping up its 4G services following its acquisition by Softbank. In the APAC region, LTE is quickly gathering pace, with operators such as SKT in Korea and M1 in Singapore both launching commercial networks in 2012.Other global markets are catching up. EE launched 4G services in the UK in October 2012, with Vodafone and O2 set to follow in 2013. Investment in LTE is taking place throughout Europe and the Middle East and it won’t be long before we have ubiquitous LTE coverage.

Wireless in-building meets subscriber demand as mobile data moves indoors

Now that mobile subscribers are predominantly consuming data services and usage has moved indoors, to fixed points, the business case for wireless in-building coverage is now at the forefront of the minds of mobile operators. The applications for in-building wireless will only increase as smart devices and mobile apps become more sophisticated and end-users demand mobile broadband access at work, at sporting events, while they’re out shopping or relaxing with friends in public spaces. Fibre DAS systems have ensured that the technology can now be viewed as a long term solution for the delivery of in-building cellular coverage. It enables operators to deploy technology that is flexible enough to solve a diverse range of structural challenges, and can remotely account for both existing and newly developed industry standards. LTE penetration is increasing but operators will be expected to support a mixture of technologies and network standards for many years to come. The ability to deploy a single Fibre DAS solution as opposed to multiple technological installations is of significant economic and operational benefit. As the development of LTE drives mobile networks further indoors, Fibre DAS is the best solution available to global mobile operators, who are increasingly dependent on satisfying their subscribers’ ever growing appetite for mobile data.


Related Articles

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More