5 Steps To Deploy In-Building Wireless
29 March 2018 | Reading Time: 4 minutes
For facilities managers, building owners and architects, in-building wireless (IBW) solutions should be front of mind to ensure the best enterprise connectivity options available.
Of course there are situations, where client unfamiliarity with solutions other than Wi-Fi, or concern over IBW complexity vs. Wi-Fi simplicity, causes hesitation; yet most enterprise networks will need the advanced level of connectivity support that IBW provides, rather than Wi-Fi alone.
From an engineer’s perspective, deploying IBW is simpler than ever before. For the client, it’s also much easier to gain guidance on what IBW solution would best suit their unique requirements (DAS? Small cell? Single-operator, multi-operator, high-power, low-power etc), and to receive the support needed to implement and manage the right solution.
Regardless of the IBW solution adopted however, there are typically five steps involved in deployment – that both engineers and their clients should be aware of and understand for seamless implementation.
Key Steps to In-Building Wireless Deployment
Good IBW design should function almost as a dynamic, unique ecosystem; well-considered in order to offer connectivity across all required areas, with minimal overlap – and sensitive to external factors.
Key design considerations include:
- Working with the right, specialist deployment partners. It of course takes specialist expertise to plan, deploy and operate an IBW solution, and clients will always look for partners who are trained experts in IBW, who can offer the best advice, support and deployment options for their circumstances.
- Creating a 3D model. Design partners should create a virtualized, 3D model of the enterprise space in specialized indoor propagation software. This allows straightforward mapping of where access points and antennas should be placed, to provide maximum capacity and quality of service (QoS) for users.
- Considering outside interference in the design. As we’ve explored previously, there are different use cases and advantages with both DAS and small cell IBW solutions. Regardless of the choice, it’s important that the solution design can maintain control of the airwaves within the space, and keep outside network interference away. IBW coverage should be planned to provide stronger signal strength than external interference, with each access point or antenna operating at sufficient power to drown out any stray macro network signals.
The deployment phase actions the plans and solution considerations addressed at the design phase. Of course, each individual IBW solution will have different deployment considerations, all dependent on the size, shape and use of the space.
Deployment considerations include:
- Power. IBW solutions, particularly DAS, offer a range of power levels, so are suited to different environments. For example in small office spaces, low-power systems are fine, yet in larger commercial spaces like high-rise buildings a higher power level is required to penetrate the building structure.
- Linking communications infrastructure with physical structure. Often, IBW solution deployment (in an existing building) means a new cable will need to be run between the headend and all various access points across the space. In some solutions this will be coaxial cable in the horizontal, and fiber-optic cable in the vertical. However, there are new innovative DAS and small cell solutions that run on ordinary IT cabling (typically Category 6A or Category 6), which may already be installed throughout the space, for minimal deployment time and expense.
- Connection and integration with operator networks. After the physical infrastructure is in place, an IBW solution must connect to the wireless operator network/networks. This process will vary, depending on the solution being deployed; for example a DAS deployment has no radio source of its own, meaning it must be connected to the macro network to operate. As a result, multiple operator networks can operate simultaneously on a DAS deployment if required. In contrast, in a small cell deployment, the solution does contain its own radio source, which must be integrated with the operator’s network via a backhaul solution. As operators typically enforce their own specifications before allowing integration, these cases can be tricky – and often means that a small cell solution will only support one operator network.
With IBW, there’s more to consider than just solution design and implementation; even the best-designed system will need some adjustment to ensure power levels are properly balanced and all areas are adequately covered. This is called commissioning.
The main consideration at the commissioning stage is to adjust and readjust. Real-world performance will always vary from the theoretical ranges described in the design. This is the stage to review and address those variations and can be a manual or a software-managed process, depending on the type of IBW solution.
Often, small cells have the edge here regarding simplicity; they are typically simpler to operate in the real world than their DAS counterparts, especially those operating on IT cable infrastructure. However, modern DAS solutions can offer an advantage in intelligent provisioning and commissioning capabilities that allow remote monitoring and troubleshooting. This is in addition to more traditional features like remote power level adjustments. Some even have the capacity to commission themselves automatically, adjusting levels not only at installation, but on an ongoing basis in response to changes in demand.
With power levels adjusted in the commissioning stage, an IBW must be optimized. Here, engineers should look for areas of interference in the RF path, to ensure high QoS and adequate capacity to all covered areas.
Optimization considerations include:
- Checking the uplink and downlink; measuring and isolating interference at the headend by checking the uplink and downlink paths that connect the IBW to the core network.
- Adjusting access point antennas to reduce overlap. When interference does occur, it is often a result of overlapping areas of coverage from adjacent antennas. Adjusting this can be a slow process, as each manual change must be made, checked and remade until the interference is reduced to allowable levels.
As it can be difficult to perform, this stage will typically need to be completed by a trained IBW specialist.
5. Monitoring and maintenance
As enterprise environments change and evolve, and as demand changes, IBW solutions should also be reviewed, monitored and re-optimized to ensure best connectivity, capacity and performance are maintained.
Maintenance considerations include:
- Seeking expert assistance. Enterprise organisations should expect their own IT staff to manage the IBW solution and should always seek the assistance of a trained IBW partner to ensure best post-deployment results.
- Taking a budget conscious approach. Enterprise organisations will need to select a maintenance approach that best suits their budget. This can be impacted by considering how a client uses IBW. For example if an enterprise client has the support of a secondary layer like Wi-Fi, lower-cost plans that don’t guarantee same-day maintenance response, may be an option. Equally an integrated management software solution may be an appropriate solution.
Deploying In-Building Wireless
In-building wireless solutions are always evolving, and are now more affordable, versatile and easier to install than ever before; great news for enterprise environments, who increasingly need to ensure high quality, continuous connectivity.
Of course, this is also great news for infrastructure professionals and those who maintain the right wireless training, will be best placed to stay ahead of the curve in an evolving and expanding market.