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The future for indoor wireless networks

Posted: 21 Jul 2014  Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Long Term Evolution  LTE  indoor wireless network  GSMA  WiFi 

Research shows that 80 per cent of mobile connections are made inside buildings. Yet, of the approximately 30 billion square meters of commercial real estate in use today globally, only around two per cent are currently covered with a dedicated indoor wireless network.

With the introduction of faster mobile networks such as Long Term Evolution (LTE) and the increased integration of mobile into our daily activities, the amount of data we consume is consistently on the rise. Analyst firm Analysys Mason predicts that the use of mobile data will expand by 6.3 times between 2013 and 2018(i), increasing the pressure on networks. Consumers increasingly expect and depend on a seamless user experience from their service wherever they are, and as such there is a clear mandate for mobile network operators (MNOs) to implement a robust indoor wireless coverage strategy.

Across the globe, many MNOs are rolling out LTE networks. The GSMA predicts some 465 LTE networks will be in operation in 128 countries worldwide by 2017(ii). But it is not only the wireless spectrum that is shifting – the entire industry is in a high state of change, with consumers demanding more and more from their network providers for less money from every location they visit.

The continued adoption of Bring Your Own Device is putting additional pressure on indoor networks in the workplace. Juniper Research has predicted that there will be more than one billion employee-owned smartphones and tablets in use in the enterprise by 2018(iii). IT managers are now often tasked with supporting both wired and wireless networks in the enterprise despite having limited training in RF.

Whereas once a single operator with a single technology could be deployed, now multi-operator, multi-technology, multi-band systems are needed to meet the variety of demand for wireless access and capacity.

With so much demand from consumers, why are there so few indoor wireless networks? In-building wireless solutions began with a focus on extending coverage using an "outside-in" approach—relying on signals from the macro network—regardless of the type of venue. With the increase in data traffic in many markets, MNOs began to focus on creating additional capacity inside the building, offloading the macro network as part of a new "inside-in" strategy, including the use of distributed antenna systems (DAS). This approach requires greater infrastructure investment, so MNOs began investing in large locations, such as airports and stadiums, with high levels of traffic and therefore a better return on investment. With the increased levels of business data requirements from enterprise buildings, this "inside-in" approach now is being extended to a much larger number of venues. Increasingly, MNOs are looking at smaller sized buildings to ensure good network performance, protect their reputation and satisfying their customers.

So what is the solution to ensure a robust, high quality experience for the user whilst allowing the MNOs to recoup some of their investment in LTE networks?

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