Viable in-building cellular connectivity solutions have become critical as mobile carriers expand and densify 4G LTE networks and plan for 5G access solutions to meet increasing capacity requirements of mobile users worldwide. Now, a growing number of building owners are using small cells to provide mobile indoor coverage and capacity, as well as carrier-grade features like PBX integration, content caching and precise indoor location.
The overall market volume of small cells has seen steady growth since 2015, reaching more than one million units in 2016 and it is expected to reach annual 9% CAGR from 2017-2021, according to data collected by EJL Wireless Research. Small cells have been especially useful in both healthcare and retail sectors. Here are two case studies of indoor small cell wireless deployments.
Mobile coverage in Latin America’s biggest mall
Together, Nokia and Telefonica completed one of the most successful deployments of small cell indoor cellular coverage in one of Latin America’s most prominent malls: Costanera located in the heart of Santiago, Chile. The massive deployment entailed providing high-quality coverage for the six-story mall with shopping and food outlets across 168,000 square meters or nearly 1.8 million square feet, built with a concrete-reinforced structure known to block radio frequency and cellular operator signals.
Nokia replaced and upgraded the existing distributed antenna system with a high-capacity, high-coverage Flexi Zone small cell network to provide higher quality cellular services that enabled shoppers and visitors to seamlessly make voice and video calls, share images and access the Internet.
Nokia’s Flexi Zone, small cells technology, was a cost-effective alternative to DAS, enabled faster data speeds, supporting a higher number of subscribers and flexibility to upgrade 3G small cells to 4G LTE and scale capacity as customer demand evolves.
The size of the small cells themselves was an advantage because they did not require major renovations and were able to be placed throughout the structure with limited obstructions. Further, the small cells were capable of managing the demands of the surrounding area interference from the outdoor macro network, ensuring that all subscribers remained on the dedicated indoor small cell network, even when near the edges of the building.
The small cell deployment increased 4G LTE download and upload speeds by more than 60 times, compared with DAS times resulting in a 100% increase in download traffic and 70 % higher upload traffic by subscribers. The successful deployment in Costanera Center led to the installation of the same solution in seven other malls in Santiago and the main metro line.
Small cell deployment for mission-critical hospital environments
Isala Klinieken, one of the largest hospitals in the Netherlands offers primary care and highly-specialized care in heart- and neurosurgery, dialysis, stem cell transplantation, and radiotherapy for the region between the university cities of Groningen, Utrecht and Nijmegen.
The hospital’s management recognized that it needed to improve its overall communications technology and move away from the hospital’s existing paging systems, which were approaching the end of life and becoming more costly to maintain. The hospital wanted a cutting-edge mobile communications technology that could to deliver dedicated communications to the hospital staff and which integrated with the latest nurse call technology.
Since hospital campuses are mission-critical environments, the connectivity infrastructure demanded guaranteed cellular coverage and capacity. The hospital administration determined that small cells would be most effective at meeting these requirements.
Druids, through its private cellular network application Raemis, offered a viable small cell solution for the hospital and today delivers more than 10 million calls a year through its dedicated, resilient mobile communications services to thousands of medical staff at the ISALA campus offered. Its open SIP interface provides full integration of the mobile handset to the enterprise PABX, turning each mobile device into a SIP extension.
By integrating the nurse call alarms and location-based technologies through its REST API, a mobile phone can turn into a pager, location device and reporting tool. The company also optimizes the private network for messaging which is essential in the delivery of critical messages and alarms and dedicated voice, message and data systems provide 100% accurate information for care audit trails and analysis.