State of In-Building Cellular Coverage
Since the inception of cellular networks being constructed, the carriers designed and engineered coverage primarily for outdoor mobile applications; and the subscriber’s antenna belonged on the roof of your car. Today we still need mobility, but mobility needs to be supplemented with stationary indoor coverage. As the outdoor cellular sites (those on the towers you see on the roadside and antennas on rooftops) struggle to penetrate walls and windows of nearby facilities, business and building owners need indoor solutions to supplement the outdoor Macro networks.
The Evolution In-Building Cellular Coverage
The best solution is designed to route cellular voice and data traffic onto the carriers’ networks via Radio Frequencies or point-to-point fiber connections. A second option is to route voice and data traffic onto the buildings existing WiFi network.
WiFi calling is nothing new. Carriers are adopting Wi-Fi calling themselves to bolster their network coverage and improve user experience. The major nationwide carriers have phones that have this service baked in and seamlessly switch your phone service between cellular and Wi-Fi when needed.
Initially, only wireless operators were able to offer in-building solutions because they own the rights to the FCC frequencies. So, building owners, managers, and architects had no direct control over in-building options, they had to prioritize installations based on opportunity and variable costs.
Then a solution was developed and included an off-air antenna placed on the roof or in a penthouse/attic that is connected to a booster and internal antenna pointing to the area requiring coverage. Coverage area is typically 4,000 to 5,000 sq. ft. and acceptable for 20-30 users. As a result, in-building deployments continued to gradually expand.
“Integrators will pay a fee to have rights inside a facility.”
Then larger facilities such as stadiums, education, dorm room facilities and arenas began to experience explosions in usage because of the large crowds wanting to get online all at once. Usage of this type is too much for the off-air system, resulting in outages.
Are You Considering In-Building Cellular Coverage?
Today, carriers seem reluctant to build indoor systems, yet demand for in-building coverage has only increased. In fact, the problem has grown faster than the carriers’ capacity to deal with it.
Deployment of in-building cellular coverage has become the building and business owners initiative. Building owners, managers and architects are now stepping in to fill the void; taking ownership of the infrastructure and connecting to one or more operators’ core networks for a wider range of options.
The challenge of ensuring secure, high-quality, high-speed indoor connections continues. A typical licensed solution that includes the participation of the carriers and on-site base station equipment costs ~ $2 per square foot, with a 10 year life span. The carriers may often pay a fee to have equipment and antenna rights inside the facility.
For building and business owners and managers, the biggest challenge today is assessing what kind of in-building solution best suit the specific needs of the facility.
At Foresite, we’re continuing to use our relationships with the carriers to evaluate and determine the right in-building solution for the right use today and into the future. Maintaining up to date wireless training certification is a core part of Foresite – we invest in training.
Foresite consists of three knowledge centers: Communication, Integration and Power.