Top trends in indoor wireless
Operators have recognised the needed to invest in wireless for large public venues because their subscribers demanded service there.
Over the last several years, wireless operators in the Middle East region have been focused on covering the largest public access venues—stadiums, arenas and airports—with cellular services. In these types of venues, it’s all about providing high network capacity to a high concentration of subscribers.
With Expo 2020 and the FIFA World Cup 2022 coming, network operators in the region are preparing to support the demand for increased connectivity with more sectors for each frequency band in stadium distributed antenna systems (DAS). This design delivers plenty of capacity to fans for watching video replays and using other data-intensive applications. Future upgrades for adding more capacity and frequency bands will likely be necessary, but solid foundations for wireless are in place.
The next frontier for indoor wireless is the mid- and large-size enterprise buildings, which include office complexes, high-rise apartments and commercial buildings—which are typically privately owned.
The challenges of deploying wireless in private access venues are significantly different in terms of the customers and channels involved, as well as the technical requirements. The most significant of these differences is the operators’ willingness, or lack thereof, to fund these systems.
The operators recognised they needed to invest in wireless for large public venues because their subscribers demanded service there. But the return on investment for private enterprises is less certain. As such, operator willingness to fund in-building wireless in private enterprises is not as strong, particularly as they pursue other investments such as new spectrum, acquisitions and network virtualisation. The enterprises themselves will likely need to invest in the equipment themselves. This is a much different model, and overall there is no consistent process to help the enterprises know how to acquire and deploy a system successfully. Even if an enterprise is willing to fund a system, an operator has to provide the radio and backhaul to their network. The process for getting approval from one operator to another is different, making the situation daunting and confusing for many.
Remember, we are generally dealing with IT organisations in private enterprises, not RF managers from the major network operators who are intimately familiar with cellular communications. A significant learning curve stands between these worlds. Enterprises typically have little to no understanding of cellular. They want it be no more complicated than Wi-Fi – and unfortunately, it generally is. The IT installation companies they know are probably only slightly more knowledgeable about cellular.