NTIA Releases Report on Public-Safety In-Building Coverage
Tuesday, August 04, 2015 | Comments

The Institute for Telecommunication Sciences (ITS) released a new report that describes the results of experiments conducted to investigate both the in-building coverage characteristics of future public-safety mobile networks and ways to improve performance in in-building environments.

The research, sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security, involved a team of researchers led by ITS and the University of Colorado at Boulder that developed experimental techniques to characterize and improve in-building communications with and without supplemental radio transmitters. The team targeted Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology, envisioned by the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet), operating in public-safety frequency bands.

Using a backpack mounted measurement system, ITS researchers collected two independent LTE data streams while walking through multiple levels of two buildings, modeling the path that a first responder might take in response to an incident. The researchers found that to achieve reliable coverage, transmissions from the cell tower needed to be supplemented. Three different methods to improve in-building coverage were tested: a portable base station commonly referred to as a cell on wheels (COW), a small cell using standalone antennas that bring the network closer to the user, and a small cell using a distributed antenna system (DAS), a network of low-power cell antennas often used indoors to boost coverage.

The researchers were able to improve cell coverage with the help of the supplemental systems. However, even with better coverage, data transfers were still slow in some cases because of the challenge of coordinating all the systems. Peak performance requires both adequate coverage and optimization of the network to ensure the smooth transfer of data or calls from a wireless device.

This report provides preliminary data that can be used to begin effective planning of in-building public-safety LTE communications. It also identifies additional research needed to reliably predict in-building coverage, and points to the need to enhance coordination of all aspects of a network.

The tests were conducted from July 2013 to May 2014. The report presents results obtained at two buildings located on the campus of the University of Colorado at Boulder.

This research not only can be used to help first responders better communicate during emergencies, but it also may help spur innovation in commercial wireless networks also interested in enhancing indoor coverage, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) said. ITS is NTIA’s research laboratory in Boulder, Colo.

The report is available here.

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