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Vodafone: Building developers now prioritising indoor mobile coverage

Tuesday, November 18th 2014 by Ellen Branagh

Developers of new buildings are increasingly looking at connectivity at the earliest opportunity to make sure people can get coverage indoors, a network expert has said.

Dr Rob Matthews, senior community manager at Vodafone, told Cable.co.uk: “What we’re finding more increasingly now is where you’ve got developers of new buildings and they start to look at things like connectivity whether it be fibre or mobile or whatever it turns out to be.

"They’re now starting to look at that at the earliest opportunity.

“So I know for a fact that about six months ago we were working with a hospital to look at how we put the infrastructure in at the building stage.

“And things like large department stores and office blocks and whatever, whether you look at things like the Shard in London being another example, is as they start to get built, people are now looking and saying, ‘ok not only are we offering a mobile signal but also maybe a wi-fi solution or things such as that’.

“So I think that more and more new building designers are looking at that.”

Solutions can include Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS), which use a network of antenna to provide a wireless service within a certain area or structure, or running wires through ceiling spaces and putting antennas into standard base stations.

He added: “But it’s not unusual for us to work with large corporates to look at putting in coverage solutions to give them that dedicated coverage.”

He said that corporations are increasingly working with Vodafone to improve signals inside their buildings.

Problems can be caused when radio signals struggle to penetrate walls, as well the issues of capacity when there is a high concentration of people in a limited area, Dr Matthews said.

“Every time a radio signal has to pass through a solid material like a brick wall it loses some of its intensity. So the more walls it has to go through, the weaker the signal gets.

“So if you’re really in the depths or bowels of a building it’s got to go through maybe tens of walls to get there.

“By the time it reaches where you are it may just by sheer physics be of too weak an intensity to be able to make a call.

“There’s also another aspect which is just because you’ve got coverage doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve got capacity.

“So if you’ve got lots of people in an office all trying to use their mobile at one time you need to be able to make sure you’ve got the capacity to be able do that. And that’s where indoor solutions really come into their own.”

He used the example of his own office close to the M4 which he said suffered from limited signal every time an incident on the motorway caused a concentration of people using their phones, congesting the local site.

Possible solutions lie in indoor schemes, Dr Matthews said, such as Vodafone’s indoor Sure Signal programme, which uses a broadband connection to create 3G signal in areas where there is little or no reception, and which he said can effectively offer dedicated capacity.

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