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Dublin Airport Indoor Coverage

Executive Summary

Technology demands from buildings has become a considerable focus for building designers and developers to make properties more user friendly and aligned with international competition, especially in areas such as airports, stadia and points of interest.

The decision to install this new utility service in properties is driven by the ‘always-connected’ user demand and the reduced mobile phone signals in properties due to energy efficient buildings. When competing at an international level for customers, airports such as Dublin Airport require more than the standard utilities to stay ahead of the competition. Enhanced connectivity via DAS technologies helps in providing added features that make airport buildings more user-friendly and customer focused.

Vilicom represent a strong partner in the delivery of regulatory compliant and licensed DAS technologies to large-scale venues such as airports. Our experience over the past 20 years, working on design teams has been tested and proven in over 1,000+ small and large DAS deployments. Our international reputation and project portfolio speaks for itself.

About Dublin Airport

When opening its doors on January 19th 1940 for one inaugural flight to Liverpool the thoughts of an airport that 65 years later would be carrying some 28 million passengers would have been hard to comprehend. The fact that most of those passengers today are carrying ten times more technology in their pockets than powered the first airplane (Lockheed 14) that was the centre of attention that day would have been a concept only paralleled by science fiction writings.

With the advancement of society and its technology demands Dublin airport has had to constantly develop its infrastructure and facilities to ensure that the international standing of Ireland’s main airport remains aligned to those competing airports across the globe.

The airport still only boasts two terminals which at the time of writing are being expanded again to facilitate increasing passenger numbers. 2015 to 2016 saw an 11% increase in total footfall through the terminals against a backdrop of 15% from 2014 to 2015. The trend currently is progressing in one direction with the building of the new pre-boarding area in terminal 2 in 2017 expecting to cater for a further growth in numbers to break the 30m-passenger mark in 2018.

The societal fixation with being constantly mobile and connected drives a demand / expectation of wireless facilities for passengers to utilise while operating around the airport building itself. The challenge for the airport management (DAA) is to provide the necessary wireless infrastructure to meet the demand and ensure the user experience is maintained.

With Mobile Network Operators, MNO’s, also focused on the same outcome for users and the capture of roaming traffic, there is a common solution to achieve an excellent user experience while providing the necessary infrastructure and meeting the demand of the discerning traveller. The solution comprises an active multi-operator distributed antenna system or DAS. The DAS system is used to provide both coverage and capacity to the internal areas of medium to large sale buildings. It is important from the outset to ensure there is clarity between the provision of Wi-Fi as a service within buildings as opposed to cellular mobile phone coverage. Both are wireless technologies but very different in their form and delivery to customers. 

Challenges


The project to design, install and maintain a fully functioning DAS in an environment such as the airport is not a trivial undertaking. The specification of equipment and the design must cater for the high capacity demand of the main terminal buildings while also handling the back of house areas and the operational elements of the airport buildings that the average user never gets to see. The security challenges alone demand considerable planning and attention to detail to provide a smooth project delivery with health and safety being a paramount concern for all involved. Physically, the airport building ranges from basement level corridor lined storage areas to passenger concourse with vaulted ceilings which pose challenging radio planning environments that need careful design and management to ensure maximum performance for users with the constraints of budget and time. 

 

Goals

The main aim of the project brief was to complete the design, installation and maintenance of a fully operational multi-operator DAS for Dublin airport terminal 2. The coverage demand for the building was to achieve 95% floor area coverage with the capacity to handle the customer throughput but with expansion options for the expected growth in users over the coming years. The involvement of architects with requirements for low profile discreet components drove the need for engineering of a solution that would be fit for purpose and hidden as much as possible in the building.

 

Design & Architecture

The system design fundamentally began with a multi-operator solution that was expandable to cater for expected growth in demand. The capacity requirements of a venue of this scale dictated that Basestations (BTS’s) be used to provide the service to the active DAS. In considering the active DAS once again the scale of the building demanded that a fibre installation be used to connect remote locations within the building to the central head end hardware. The following diagram illustrates a typical architecture for large DAS deployment. The head end hardware will cater for the system intelligence and a number of antenna within reasonable cable distances to the main equipment room. The use of fibre fed remote units to service antenna at distance from the main equipment room is a typical type architectural design which harnesses the flexibility of fibre technology without the losses experienced over long RF cable runs.

Figure 1. DAS Architecture

Benefits

The provision of in-building telecoms systems is rapidly becoming a hygiene factor in terms of expectation for building users. When the service is available it is used and taken for granted that the service is up and running and performing to a reasonable level. In the event that service is not present or underperforming, the lack of service becomes an annoyance and frustration to customers. During the design phase of T2 the requirement to provide the in-building telecoms
services was informed by the experience from T1 which had to have a retro fit system installed to cater for the growth of mobile demand in the mid 2000’s.

The Terminal 2 DAS ensures seamless coverage between the external macro site and the internal networks preventing dropped calls and overloading the external macro sites as capacity demands. The airport is a large focal point for roaming traffic as tourists and foreign mobiles land at the airport. As mobiles are switched on and search for available networks the DAS provides a good quality signal strength to capture these mobiles and give the network operators the best opportunity to hold these roaming customers as they move into the airport building and toward landside areas and out into Dublin city. The use of DAS in this type of building also supports longer lasting battery life for mobiles; using the DAS to provide as strong signal strength reduces the power draw on phone batteries due to good quality signal and continuous coverage.

Capacity Demand

In engineering the various types of DAS available for each building project, the RF design has to answer the question of coverage but also capacity demand for the system being introduced. Modern building techniques may be causing issue for radio propagation coverage in some new construction projects, however even when excellent macro coverage is available in a building, the occupancy of that venue can put demands on the macro network which justify the use of dedicated capacity by the installation of base-stations (BTS’s).

This type of deployment can be costly in terms of physical hardware and equipment room demands for cooling and electrical power consumption if not designed correctly. For venues such as airports, concert venues and stadia and indeed shopping centres and other points of interest the sheer volume of people using the cellular services require the use of base-stations. Dublin airport T2 is no different and the use of base-station hardware was sanctioned from the beginning to ensure the system could provide both 3G and 4G technologies to users for all network operators using a common infrastructure of the single DAS.

 

Vilicom Strategy

In addressing any project, the importance of ensuring the customer is not burdened with the detailed execution of that project is at the forefront of the Vilicom approach. The true delivery of an end-to-end project has been the hallmark of our approach for many years. The marshalling of the necessary resources to execute the project deliverable while liaising with all stakeholders; technical, commercial, health and safety, security and legal is the true mark of an end-to-end project.

The less work the customer must do, the better, and to ensure this is true of each project handled by Vilicom our strongest and most experienced project manager and consultants lead our work. The approach of clearly structured process is in our nature as an engineering firm, which worked well with the requirements defined by the Dublin Airport DAS Project.

 

Security

It must be appreciated that the strict adherence to security measures in airports today is at the forefront of all projects involving installation works, this is not specific to DAS deployments but to any type of project involving works on airport buildings, especially those that are operational. Security is in line with safety of employees and adds a particular dimension to projects that normally would not require this level of scrutiny. Vilicom have been operating on airport sites across the UK and Ireland for over ten years and have seen the development of the security demand increase tenfold in that time.

The security clearance and status of all staff must be maintained to ensure the project teams do not cause difficulty for security and police on these projects, as the knock on impact of a breech in process can be considerable, not only for staff but for also for airport employees and passengers. We are a trusted installation and maintenance partner with the experience and understanding of the operational side of working in high security buildings such as data centres and airports. The ability to work airside in this type of project is a hurdle that can be overcome with the necessary experience in teams to satisfy security processes and safety requirements.

 

Conclusion

The deployment of large-scale DAS projects is becoming more mainstream for building developers and consulting engineers. As the drive toward building energy efficiency becomes more and more important there is a knock on impact of removing the perpetration of mobile technologies to service customers, who are insisting on faster, better and more consistent connectivity from their mobile phone service. Vilicom have specialized in this the design and deployment of DAS for over 13 years and represent a strong partner in the delivery of large DAS projects. Working with design teams we bring the technical expertise to deliver these projects while ensuring the compliance to licensing regulation and mobile network operators approvals which are crucial for the successful delivery of DAS project in Ireland and the UK.

References

For further information please contact:

Gearoid Collins gearoid.collins@vilicom.com 


Vilicom is an expert provider of wireless services with over seventeen years of experience in the analysis, design, test and implementation of wireless networks. The company has delivered multiple railway projects in this time. Vilicom’s strengths lie in technology strategy consulting, the design of wireless networks, transmission network design, implementation of specialised coverage solutions and network benchmarking and testing.

Vilicom has delivered its services in over 20 countries for network operators, network equipment vendors, industry regulators and investors. It delivers value for its customers by adopting a flexible, customer-focused approach, retaining cutting-edge expertise and maintaining its independence.