Base stations bring 3G indoors

By Dave Bailey
11 Apr 2007 View Comments
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A recent report by research firm Analysys predicted that indoor base stations using, for example, 3G radios will be a key driver for fixed mobile substitution (FMS), which allows enterprises to replace fixed phones with mobile devices.

In Picocells and Femtocells: Will Indoor Base Stations Transform the Telecoms Industry?, co-author Mark Heath forecast that FMS services based on indoor base stations will be more popular than unlicensed mobile access (UMA ) or dual-mode cellular/wireless LAN services because mobile users will be able to use their existing mobile handsets rather than new dedicated ones.

However, Heath pointed out that although the potential of this technology is substantial, there are problems that need to be resolved. “These include interference, range, performance, network integration and management, handover, billing and security,” he said.

However, a recent report by market research firm ABI Research predicted a bright future for in-building wireless systems incorporating indoor 3G base stations and distributed antenna systems (DAS). Such systems could help with the interference, range and performance issues outlined by Heath. ABI Research analyst Dan Shey estimates the market for DAS will be worth about $3.5bn by 2011.

Shey said uptake will be driven by a compelling business case. “Indoor coverage does not just satisfy a need for service convenience; it is also used to improve business productivity,” he said.

One of the pioneers of DAS technology, Zinwave, has expanded its product range. The 2776, 2777 and 2778 service-specific antenna units enable firms to roll out in-building 2G and 3G services. The 2777 and 2778 DAS are designed to receive signals from European GSM and 3G transmitters, while the 2776 is for the US market.

Zinwave’s technology connects remotely attached antenna units, which can be set up to receive particular wireless services such as GSM or 3G, to a firm’s optical fibre infrastructure. Zinwave said the benefit of using its proprietary kit is that it can capture and route wireless signals across half a kilometre using multi-mode optical fibre before the signal fades.

Zinwave’s chief executive, Mike Baker, pointed out that most firms have multi-mode fibre, and that signal loss typically occurs at about 50 metres, requiring firms to put in dedicated single-mode fibre.

Baker added that a firm requiring various wireless services to cover a reasonably large building would also need a large number of base stations. “With our system, you put one base station in the IT room and use our distributed antenna system to enable services throughout the rest of the building,” he said.

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