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Indoor mobile coverage for airports

Delivering a genuinely ‘end-to-end’ solution has traditionally been the hallmark of Vilicom’s approach.


When the owners of Ireland’s flagship airport were embarking on the construction of an enhanced Terminal 2, they were aware of the vital importance of reliable mobile coverage for airport visitors and staff. They had built an international reputation of offering passengers and visitors the highest quality, seamless airport wireless coverage throughout every part of the operation, including airside, landside, in and around the terminal buildings, and the associated operational and ‘back of house’ areas. Vilicom’s own international reputation as the strongest partner in the delivery of regulatory compliant and licensed DAS technologies to hundreds of large-scale venues made us the natural choice for Dublin Airport Authority.

Challenges and considerations

Having passed the 30million passengers per annum milestone in 2018, Dublin airport’s construction of a new and improved second terminal was only ever going to lead to an even greater upswing in customer numbers and footfall. International travellers are no different from any other demographic in their need to remain constantly connected via their smartphones, laptops and every other type of digital personal comms device. So the demand for airport mobile coverage was also set to increase and keep on increasing.

It is important to draw the distinction here 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.

With the Mobile Network Operators also similarly focused on delivering a first-class user experience for their customers, our first consideration was to devise a common solution to meet the demands of discerning travellers, and that solution would need to comprise an active Multi-Operator Distributed Antenna System (DAS) to provide both coverage and capacity throughout the real estate of the airport.

Physically, the new terminal building would range from basement level corridors and lined storage areas to a multi-tier passenger concourse with vaulted ceilings, always a particular challenge in radio planning environments. The main aim of the project brief was to:
* complete the design, installation and maintenance of a fully operational Multi-Operator DAS
* achieve 95% floor area coverage
* deliver the capacity to handle the anticipated increased customer throughput
* ensure expansion options for anticipated future growth
* minimise the visual impact of the DAS hardware on the terminal’s aesthetic by effectively ‘hiding’ the lowest profile (yet highest performing) components discreetly within the building’s design via close co-operation with the architects

A further specific consideration of the mobile coverage involved the issue of security. Any type of works project involving airport buildings necessarily entails strict adherence to security processes and safety requirements, along with the most diligent screening and clearance of all operatives. Having operated in the widest range of highly sensitive environments for over a decade, and having seen the requirement for tight security increase tenfold in that time, we have proven ourselves as a trusted and reliable installation and maintenance partner.

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Solutions and delivery

The mobile coverage system design fundamentally began with an expandable multi-operator solution. The sheer capacity requirements of a venue of this scale dictated that Base Transceiver Stations (BTS) be used to provide the service to the active DAS. The use of base-station hardware was sanctioned from the beginning to ensure the system could provide both 3G and 4G (and ultimately 5G) technologies to users for all network operators using a common infrastructure of the single DAS.

The size 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 mobile coverage architecture for large DAS deployment.

The head end hardware catered for the system intelligence and a number of antennae within reasonable cable distances to the main equipment room. The use of fibre-fed remote units to service antennas 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.

The Terminal 2 DAS ensures seamless coverage between the external macro site and the internal networks, preventing dropped calls and any overloading of the external macro sites in response to fluctuating capacity demands. The airport is a large focal point for roaming traffic as ‘foreign’ mobiles land at the airport, and are then switched on to immediately start searching 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, 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; because the DAS provides a strong signal, that reduces the power draw on phone batteries associated with maintaining good quality signal and continuous coverage.


For further information about our mobile coverage systems for airports or to discuss further technical specs, please contact Gearoid Collins at

About Vilicom

Vilicom is an expert provider of wireless services with over seventeen years of experience in the analysis, design, test and implementation of wireless networks. 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 trademark end-to-end 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.