How can I get assured mobile connectivity into my building?
Modern, energy–efficient building materials are good news for the environment, but they tend to block outdoor mobile signal from being able to enter a building. This means some kind of in-building network is needed, otherwise it can be a cause of frustration and lowered productivity for those inside, and a less desirable and subsequently lower value building for the owner. For those looking at the options for improving indoor mobile connectivity our Senior Director, Brendan Hourihane, has put together some of the most common questions to consider when looking for a partner.
1. Are there different ways to bring mobile signal into a building?
If you’ve already had a brief look around, you’ll have seen that there are several options for indoor mobile networks. Generally, if you need connectivity across a very large, complex building, such as a skyscraper, stadium, arena or airport, you’ll be looking at a distributed antenna system (DAS).
For smaller commercial buildings and premium residential properties, small cells are likely to be more appropriate. Both these options come with a guaranteed quality of service as they connect directly with mobile network operators’ (MNOs’) core network.
2. Which MNOs can you connect?
The MNOs only allow the partners that they trust to have access to their core networks. Depending on your needs, you might just need one MNO connected, or you might need all four. So make sure that the supplier you’re speaking to is willing to contractually guarantee the delivery of the networks you need. Otherwise, you might end up with equipment purchased and installed, but missing some of the network that you need.
We were the first company trusted by all four MNOs to deliver in-building connectivity via a managed small cell solution. And with more than 2,000 buildings connected, many of them to multiple MNOs, you know you’re in safe hands.
3. Have you connected a building like this before?
There’s nothing like speaking to a potential supplier’s other customers to find out what they’re like to work with and to make sure they have the right experience. We often give potential new customers tours of sites we’ve deployed and now manage, whether that’s the City of London’s highest skyscraper 22 Bishopsgate, some of flexible office provider Workspace’s sites, or the NHS’s Grange University Hospital.
4. How long until I can start using my in-building system?
This is somewhat dependent on the MNOs, but on average for small cells it’s around 1-4 months from purchase to the system going live. With a DAS, because of the size of the sites that these are usually associated with, it’s in the region of 9-12 months.
5. What happens when the technology changes?
We all know that technology changes and moves on. You may have heard that the MNOs have confirmed that they are switching off 2G and 3G outdoor networks, although the exact dates for each vary by operator. But did you know that they’re shutting off indoor 3G services earlier than the rest of their network? Several MNOs have already switched off some of their indoor 3G products. This means that unless a 3G in-building system is upgraded to 4G before the shutdown (the precise dates of which vary by operator again), the system will no longer work. We’re currently working with all our customers to make sure they’re not surprised when the 3G services are switched off.
6. What happens if something goes wrong with system?
It’s important to choose a supplier that provides a complete managed service and guarantees the quality of service through service level agreements (SLAs), like we do. Different organisations are affected in different ways should there be an outage; a hospital, for example, would need issues fixed within a few hours, whereas many offices would not be in such as urgent situation. Make sure whoever you’re working with is able to accommodate your specific needs in the SLA.