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Three Reasons to Unify Indoor and Outdoor Wireless Network Design

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Three Reasons to Unify Indoor and Outdoor Wireless Network Design

David Nathan
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This is a guest blog by David Nathan from the Infovista team. Find out how iBwave and Infovista are teaming up to deliver a unified solution for indoor and outdoor-friendly wireless network design.

If you’re part of a mobile network technical team, get ready for unified indoor and outdoor network design. Ready or not, it’s coming, and it’s going to mean big changes for how operators build and deploy their networks.

Poor in-building performance has been a notorious challenge for cellular networks and one of the biggest hurdles to broad adoption in enterprise architectures. In the early days of cellular data, operators could argue that indoor coverage wasn’t really part of their mandate—it’s “mobile” coverage, after all. So, apart from major venues like stadiums and convention centers, operators focused their network design effort on providing reliable, high-performance connectivity for users on the go.

5G is about to change all that. All of a sudden, seamless indoor/outdoor wireless experiences are no longer a nice-to-have bonus. They’re a core requirement. Why does 5G make it essential to unify indoor and outdoor wireless network design? Here are the top three reasons.

1. Because 5G use cases demand it.

Unlike previous cellular data services, 5G will soon empower operators to segment their networks into different “slices” tuned to specific use cases. Operators and possibly neutral host players will offer packages of network resources for things like massive Internet of Things (IoT) installations, smart factories, and private networks. These slices will guarantee specified capacity, reliability, and latency under a service-level agreement (SLA).

Network slices represent one of the most promising new ways for operators to monetize their 5G networks. But many network slicing use cases function indoors, or in venues with mixed in-building and outdoor coverage requirements. If operators are going to guarantee specially tuned network slices under SLAs—and rely on those higher revenues to fund 5G network upgrades—seamless indoor/outdoor wireless connectivity becomes absolutely essential. That only happens when wireless networks are designed for it from the outset.

2. Because keeping them separate is inefficient.

Today, the few options available for dedicated in-building cellular coverage exist in a separate world from the rest of operator networks. Furthermore, design teams and solutions to plan and deploy in-buildings networks are generally sitting in separated organizations with their own design processes. When indoor coverage was viewed as a limited special case for a handful of venues, that made sense. But, if revenues and customer satisfaction will increasingly depend on use cases that demand seamless indoor/outdoor connectivity, that model just won’t work.

No operator wants to invest in building up a separate organization—with separate network design, separate tools, separate testing and deployment—for in-building services that make up an ever-larger part of their business. That much duplication is just too expensive and inefficient. Even worse: if you’re relying on separate organizations and design processes, you can expect much longer timelines for 5G network rollouts.

Furthermore, adopting a unified approach for the design of wireless networks unleashes new capabilities which were not accessible before, such as an accurate understanding of the indoor coverage subscribers will access from the outdoor network. Streamlining the design methodologies and tools enables significant cost reduction by eliminating expensive in-building site walk (OPEX) and helps to maximize the radio network return of investment. 

3. Because it will be a key competitive differentiator.

Cellular data services might have meant “outdoors and on the go” in the early years. Today, that approach no longer aligns with how people actually use mobile devices. According to ABI Research, more than 80 percent of all data traffic is consumed indoors. And, as 5G spurs new enterprise use cases like massive IoT deployments and smart factories, that number will grow.

It all comes down to Business 101. If an operator can’t deliver high-performing in-building service and seamless connectivity, their customers will look to a competitor who can. This makes in-building coverage one of the most important opportunities for operators to differentiate their 5G services. Those that can unify indoor and outdoor network designs soonest will capture the lions’ share of new enterprise business as well as justify a 5G price premium. They’ll be well-positioned to peel off competitors’ consumer subscribers too.

It’s Time for Unified Network Designs. Infovista and iBwave deliver.

5G brings all manner of new use cases and challenges where in-building and outdoor wireless networks must continually, reliably interact. It just doesn’t make sense to treat indoor and outdoor network designs separately anymore. It’s time for convergence.

That’s why Infovista and iBwave have announced a strategic collaboration to deliver a unified solution to bridge the gap between indoor and outdoor connectivity.  

The unified offering from Infovista and iBwave will allow customers to design and deploy 5G wireless networks to complex indoor and outdoor campus environments faster, without separate survey and planning tools. Expanded design capabilities will also cut costs and reduce the risk of unclear timelines that are often an issue in large venue and campus design.

By unifying network design processes and planning solutions, network operators can maintain a holistic view of their networks, slices, and SLAs. They can reduce operational costs, get the best of their RAN investment and significantly reduce deployment timelines. And, they can capture the attention (and revenues) of a growing number of enterprise and consumer customers, by delivering a seamless indoor/outdoor experience that competitors can’t match.  

For details on how Infovista helps network operators design and test 5G networks from planning and optimization to testing, see the Planet Planning Portfolio and Tems™ Mobile Network Testing.

To learn more about 5G design for a variety of use-cases, read about Beamforming, an innovative process for advanced network design.

David Nathan
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