Prepping wireless infrastructure for the Summer Olympics

This year, London will host the Summer Olympic Games. England last hosted the games in 1948, when mobile phones weren’t even invented. This year, the city and venues must prepare to handle the modern day technological issue of wireless communications. There will be a dramatic influx in mobile data and voice traffic by the spectators who have purchased almost 8 million tickets for the 302 events that will take place in London.

This year, London will host the Summer Olympic Games. England last hosted the games in 1948, when mobile phones weren’t even invented. This year, the city and venues must prepare to handle the modern day technological issue of wireless communications. There will be a dramatic influx in mobile data and voice traffic by the spectators who have purchased almost 8 million tickets for the 302 events that will take place in London. For this reason, it will be critical for the city to have equipment in place to handle increased demand for wireless bandwidth, so cellphone signals won’t get jammed and data can be transferred.

Small cell technology injects additional coverage

Small cell technology will be a critical component to further optimize wireless coverage at the Games. Small cells enable operators to deploy coverage in high-capacity areas that are typically difficult to cover with a standard Macro cell site. This technology helps close coverage gaps and dead spots often found throughout a location. Since London already has a cellular infrastructure in place, small cells offer a way to build out existing network infrastructure, providing targeted 4G coverage where it’s needed most. At the same time, operators can continue to support existing 2G / 3G customers, while rolling out new services to improve wireless access to newcomers.

Indoor / outdoor wireless coverage

To combat the wireless challenges that coincide with such a large-scale event, London must also prepare both outdoor and indoor Olympic center locations with appropriate equipment. And, with global mobile data traffic doubling just since last year (and in each of the three years prior)*, the equipment must offer not only the right coverage, but the right capacity levels. There are multiple ways to implement additional coverage and capacity, including a distributed antenna system (DAS) – a network of separated antenna nodes, connected to a common source. A DAS can be quickly and easily deployed, offers simplified maintenance and provides enhanced reliability and performance. The transmitted power is split among several antenna elements, reducing the total power used, helping to keep energy costs low without compromising coverage. Below is an example of a large-scale outdoor venue executing a distributed antenna system.

In this example, wireless coverage and capacity are enhanced because each of the components (including amplifiers and antennas) placed throughout the venue have direct connections (either by fiber or through an antenna pointed at a macro cell site) to wireless signals. In the case of fiber-connected equipment, the wireless operator has direct control over the number and type of signals being passed on to the end user. Antennas pointed at a macro cell site (also called donor antennas) allow an operator to re-use signals that are outside of the venue to take care of the coverage holes inside. The choice between the two is typically made on cost (adding a base station to a venue can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, but the macro sites have typically already been paid for), and capacity.

The essential components of the DAS are spread out, providing wider coverage range and overall expanded service. Since the number of small cells used to cover a stadium could easily grow past 32 to support the high data rates required, most stadiums large enough to hold Olympic events will likely have operators building their own base stations in the basement.

Riding the wireless waves in ‘The Tube’

Visitors will not only descend on the Olympic center, but will also flood London’s underground transportation system, also known as ‘The Tube’. Despite being underground, people expect reliable wireless access when traveling. A DAS also works well in this type of deployment scenario. The city can install a series of indoor antennas and repeaters with as many as four small cells, covering each of the 270 stations and surrounding tunnel areas, using hubs discretely located throughout the rail system’s communication closets, while leveraging a fiber optic conversion module located within a centralized communication room, often called a base station hotel.

Operators can utilize fiber-optic and coaxial backbone, as these support multi-carrier and multi-band operation, enabling the city to deploy a system that requires fewer initial infrastructure requirements and maintenance routines. This system would enable shorter installation times and streamline technology upgrades in the future.

Below is a diagram that further outlines a wireless coverage system leveraging both indoor and outdoor antennas, which would enable enhanced coverage on The Tube. In addition to providing underground wireless coverage to Olympic visitors, a distributed underground system can deliver substantial profit opportunities and quick returns on investment for operators and other investors. Remember, though, that it takes time to install equipment in 1080 different locations, and have it ready for an influx of millions of people each day.

 

Conclusion

As people from all over the world begin flocking to London for the Summer Games, a series of DAS and small cell technology solutions will provide the widest range of coverage for indoor venues, outdoor arenas and rail systems. This set-up would be cost-effective and easy to implement for the carriers, vendors and various locations.

*Source: Cisco Visual Networking Index (VNI) Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast 2011-2016