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IBS Models: Business strategies and implementation practices

November 29, 2013

With a growing subscriber base and higher uptake of data services, the need for high speed wireless connectivity in offices, airports, hotels, convention centres, hospitals and other public places is becoming more widespread. In order to meet the ever-growing demand for 24x7 connectivity, service providers are increasingly deploying various in-building solutions (IBS) within customer premises. However, despite innovations and advancements in wireless technologies over the past few years, providing cost-effective IBS is a challenge for service providers.

Typically, a building requires services such as cellular coverage, and broadband and direct-to-home services. To ensure seamless delivery of these services, operators are required to establish state-of-the-art infrastructure.

Providing IBS coverage to existing or new buildings is a capex-intensive exercise. Therefore, service providers need to focus on the most efficient way to achieve optimal quality, coverage and capacity while installing these solutions in customer premises. With the fast-paced technological evolution, the design of cellular systems has evolved from being a purely coverage-based IBS model (for high-power, high-elevation sites) to a capacity-based model (for lower-power, lower-elevation sites). Further, the emergence of new services and concepts such as bring-your-own-device has necessitated the setting up of scalable telecom systems that are uniform across the organisation.

The following are the key steps for designing a robust IBS system:

•   Identifying potential buildings for IBS.

•    Designing distributed antenna systems (DAS) using passive and active elements: Mobile devices require a minimum signal-to-noise ratio for optimal performance. It is critical to design a system that is immune to disturbances from the outside environment. Creating such a system requires a receive signal strength of at least -80 dBm and appropriate placement of antennas for determining the impact and scope of IBS coverage. To ensure uniform coverage, the indoor antennas must be evenly spaced throughout the building, with the perimeter antennas placed at 20 ± 5 feet (6 ± 1.5 metres) from the outer walls of a premises. Preferably, the outer ring of antennas should be directional, allowing signals from indoor antennas to neutralise signals from the outside environment, thereby minimising noise interferences within the premises. This allows multiple devices in a building to gain network access and offers uniform and seamless connectivity to users.

•   Preparing a complete link engineering diagram along with an effective isotropic radiated power proposal report for each antenna.

•    Putting in place line-of-sight and link planning charts and designs to connect the site.

•    Undertaking radio frequency (RF) parameter planning, RF walk test and call quality testing.

Currently, a number of technologies are available to service providers for in-building wireless coverage and capacity. These include pico cells and microcells, high- and low-powered passive repeaters, passive coaxial cable-based transport systems, low- and high-powered active DAS and radio over fibre. Before selecting a specific technology or a combination of technologies, it is important for the service provider to consider the primary need (capacity, coverage, or both) of a consumer, identify the areas of coverage (entire building, public areas, parking levels, etc.) and take into account the number of wireless service providers who would be sharing the IBS solution.

 Implementation of IBS systems

Providing seamless wireless voice, email access and broadband services is an essential part of a robust IBS system. While developing the architecture for offering IBS solutions in an existing or a new building, service providers need to work closely with the management authority of the premises to define the system’s business and budgetary objectives. Operators should design and develop systems based on the layout of the building and its RF environment. Further, implementing these systems involves software analysis that helps specify the optimum placement of access points, thereby facilitating operators to plan and incorporate the present and future capacity requirements of customers. In addition, such practices help companies to put in place adequate security measures to protect customers’ network and data from potential threats.

While installing an IBS system, managing system procurement is a key task for the operators. The implementing body needs to define vendor equipment specifications, performance guarantees and construction requirements; prepare the request for quotes (RfQs) and distribute it to qualified vendors; conduct vendor site inspection and receive RfQ responses; and create recommendation reports for the client as well as finalise a vendor for the project. Other key aspects for extending wireless solutions within a premises include efficient management, installation and integration of new equipment with the existing assets of a company. Operators are also required to verify interconnecting links within a premises and configure access points before deploying IBS solutions besides conducting test trials within the building premises. Further, the operator must supervise vendor tests to ensure system performance, certify vendor system security demonstration, and conduct independent operational verification tests along with clients. The service provider is also responsible for reviewing and certifying the installation work carried out by the vendor, and submitting a final project report to the client, thereby facilitating the final payment to be made to the vendor.

In addition, service providers must take into account the layout as well as the architecture of a premises to ensure smooth execution of an IBS project and accordingly change the project’s workflow as per the requirement.

The key factors that an implementing agency needs to consider while providing IBS coverage at premises such as hospitals, college campuses, manufacturing sites, corporate offices and airports include work hour restrictions and the validation of facility drawings and fibre maps. For example, while extending IBS coverage in a hospital, an operator needs to ensure that the solutions to be deployed meet the coverage requirements in operation theatres, boiler rooms, etc. Similarly, at airports, the necessary security clearances for carrying out drilling and installation work in sensitive zones must be obtained before commencing the project.

 Common business models

Carrier/Operator-based model: Under this traditional business model, the operator bears the total cost of an IBS project. The service provider is solely responsible for equipment, and cabling and other installation expenses. Such a model ensures customer retention for an operator by minimising client churn and leads to a long-term relationship with the client, in turn ensuring a steady flow of revenues.

 Enterprise-led model: Global organisations such as Google and the Sears Holdings Corporation have implemented IBS solutions through the enterprise-led model by funding the infrastructure costs. Under this model, enterprises pay for the equipment, cabling and installation works  while operators provide connectivity through technologies such as RF. Since it is the enterprise that funds the project, there is no long-term association with any service provider. In fact, for connectivity support, organisations depend upon a minimum of two service providers.

Neutral host model: This business model entails the client acting as a neutral host and incurring the capex for a project. The client is responsible for adding technical value to the project and bears all performance-related risks. Under the neutral host model, building owners have no say in the deployment of additional infrastructure. The ownership of the wireless assets lies with the host who benefits from recurring revenue by leasing the created assets to other service providers. Airports worldwide adopt such a model for providing seamless connectivity to travellers.

Quality of service is an important differentiator for operators for delivering wireless services to users. Therefore, they are responsible for optimising these services at the clients’ premises in a cost-effective manner.


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