An important, yet often overlooked, aspect of any in-building wireless system is the cost of designing and documenting the installation. Larger buildings have usually required multiple site visits to consider RF coverage, cabling distribution and central equipment. In this article, we look at how iBwave has streamlined this process and illustrate a project where 70% time savings was achieved on survey and design. This paves the way for rapid, cost-effective deployment, while ensuring accurate records for subsequent changes throughout the lifetime of the installation.
The Invisible Iceberg – When LAN meets RAN
Just as icebergs have a large invisible component underwater, a comprehensive in-building design comprises not just the obvious cellular/Wi-Fi RF design for capacity and coverage but also includes any behind-the-scene infrastructure. This part is often underestimated but is an integral part of a complete indoor system and can either significantly add to the overall cost… or make it cost-effective if well planned.
Larger projects may be spread across several installation phases and involve many different stake-holders, so getting it right the first time will save a lot of valuable time while accelerating revenue generation.
An effective system design allows for factors such as:
Floorplans and blueprints: Visualising the system installation with accurate floorplans provides a solid basis for the design. Where these can be sourced and scanned in, they put everything into context and make it easy to communicate and explain where equipment will be placed and what it will look like.
Cable routing: Sometimes existing Cat5 Ethernet cables can be used, or additional cabling can be pulled through alongside. Some equipment may have limitations on maximum cable lengths, especially where PoE (Power over Ethernet) is involved. Locating hubs in wiring closets nearby can alleviate this.
Aesthetics: While industrial buildings might not worry about exposed cabling or antennas, most offices and many venues can insist on more discrete installation. Sometimes equipment can be hidden within the plenum (false ceiling), perhaps exposing only the antenna if required.
Ease of access: There may be time-of-day limitations for when equipment rooms and wiring closets are available for technicians to use. Recording which doors to use, times to expect access and even who to contact to gain entry all help save time throughout the project lifecycle.
Power: Most RF equipment (Small Cells, Wi-Fi) can be remotely powered over the same cable used for data connectivity, but some consideration is required for remote hubs and central controllers. Short term battery backup in case of outages may take advantage of existing building infrastructure, which may have “essential power feeds” for priority equipment.
RF design: There is a careful balance to be made between minimising cost and over-designing. This is even more important when multiple technologies are being installed with different propagation characteristics, such as 3G, LTE and Wi-Fi. The choice of antenna and whether MIMO is used will also be a factor. The ability to call for supervisory expertise from head office can help deal with tricky situations.
Designing an entire hotel complex in three days
iBwave’s software solution was used to design a fully operational hotel complex in Mumbai India, comprising 600,000 square feet, with 437 rooms spread across 14 floors serving a peak of 4,000 users.
This was a combined cellular and Wi-Fi system, with TD-LTE 2.3GHz and Wi-Fi in both 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands.
The RF performance requirement was to deliver 3Mbps data rates for all users, with an RSRP of -98dBm and Wi-Fi -65/-70dBm throughout 95% of the area.
The system design was completed in a single visit lasting three days, where typically a project of this size would require 3 to 4 visits across 10 days, representing a 70% saving in effort and design cost.
The outcome called for 390 Small Cells connected by 17,000 metres of cabling and concentrated into a Cisco ASR router.
The design plan identified all the equipment required and precisely where it would be located, together with a full set of report documents including a complete equipment list, costing, compliance and capacity.
Clear, concise and comprehensive design documentation made it much easier for the installation team. Due to the nature of being a fully operational 5 star hotel, access by technicians was limited to just three hours per day. This spread the project out to 80 days with several new small cells and access points being commissioned and tested on a daily basis.
iBwave Mobile Planner (which runs on portable tablets) helped with verification, so that system engineers were able to run predictions and adjust the RF design as the work proceeded. Task progress including any onsite changes was synchronized with the central iBwave Unity system to ensure accurate and comprehensive documentation at all times.
When a large project like this is completed, formal acceptance triggers contract payments and operational responsibility. That decision will only be made when those signing for approval are fully satisfied that everything works as expected.
A comprehensive set of reports greatly accelerates this process. These should include RF performance tests as well as the fixed cabling and router configuration. It’s not enough to have the original proposed design, these should reflect what was actually installed and include any on-the-fly changes made due to practical constraints and RF performance enhancements.
Accelerating in-building deployment
With the industry gearing up for more in-building wireless deployments, productivity tools such as iBwave greatly improve the speed, quality and cost.
As shown in this case study, a comprehensive design needs to involve everything from RF design to cable routing to active & passive equipment in the overall network – hence the concept of : ”LAN meets RAN”. A single visit can achieve everything required to size the project and determine its overall cost.
This design forms the basis for rapid and effective installation phase, where on-the-go design modifications can be validated by remote experts and verified onsite. All staff are working from the same dataset synchronised via a collaboration platform (iBwave Unity).
The outcome is a full set of documentation and reports, accurately reflecting what was installed rather than just originally designed – everything from annotated floorplans with 3D modelling to a full bill of materials.
This proven approach sets the benchmark for efficient, cost-effective and scalable in-building network deployment.