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Bringing 4G DAS to Canary Wharf - Arqiva Case Study
More than 1.2 million people pass through Canary Wharf every week, now, thanks to our delivery of 4G mobile coverage, visitors to the ‘city within a city’ can stay much better connected.
Our futureproof 4G DAS system means consumers can remain online when they’re underground or in large buildings – and it can deal with the pressure of Canary Wharf’s notoriously heavy footfall.
We delivered high-speed, multi-operator 4G connectivity to Canada Place, Crossrail Place and Jubilee Place.
What is DAS?
A Distributed Antenna System (DAS) is a way for mobile signal to reach areas where connectivity is low or non-existent. It uses a network of small antennas, placed throughout the site, that transit and receive the mobile signal.
This system provides mobile signal when it would otherwise be lost. It’s perfect for city centre locations, as it solves the problem of signal blackouts when large buildings cause an obstruction or heavy usage puts a strain on mobile operators.
What we did - The technical details:
The DAS equipment Arqiva used at Canary Wharf comprises Commscope ‘ION-M’ active RFOF (RF over fibre) systems in a common equipment room, and single-mode fibre feeding multiple remote units. These were connected with coaxial cables to omni-directional and panel antennas.
Each of the three retail centres has been provided with a separate system, all of which are fed from a common equipment room. This simplifies access arrangements and backhaul connectivity – optimising it for the mobile network operators (MNOs).
Furthermore, as Arqiva operates agnostic infrastructure, each system supports all MNOs, whether it’s EE, O2, or any other. It also supports all technologies – 2G, 3G and 4G. If that wasn’t enough, all five bands utilised by the MNOs (800MHz / 900MHz / 1800MHz / 2.1 GHz / 2.6 GHz) are supported, with MIMO (multiple input, multiple output) capability on the main 4G bands (800MHz / 1800MHz / 2.6 GHz).
There are five DAS zones now in Canada Place – all independent of each other and with MIMO throughout. Jubilee Place has two and Crossrail Place has three, of which two are MIMO. Low-PIM (passive intermodulation) components have been used throughout the antenna systems and the point of interface – thus enabling MNOs to eliminate passive intermodulation interference between the spectrum bands. PIM performance is better than -150dbc.
A project as big and complex as providing 4G signal within Canary Wharf was always going to be difficult. However, the skill and expertise of Arqiva’s mobile connectivity team meant that all challenges were eventually surmounted.
First there were design issues. The roof level of Crossrail Place is a difficult environment to cover, not least because it’s exposed to external macro signals and reflections from water in the dock. To combat this, the Arqiva system includes external nodes serving the roof garden, which have been provided as a single DAS zone. It allows each MNO to optimise its own solution by connecting to the DAS zone, or isolating it and using the external coverage.
Elsewhere, there were aesthetic concerns when it came to providing coverage for the Everyman Cinema. The job wasn’t possible using optimal panel antennas, so we conducted on-site carrier-wave testing to verify design changes. From this we identified alternative, more discrete omni antennas that could be used instead.
Implementation challenges came in the form of original systems in both Canada Place and Jubilee Place, which had to be kept running during the upgrade. So, new systems were built in parallel and services were cutover to the new systems overnight, during planned overnight outages. The result was zero downtime during opening hours. In fact, almost all implementation activity was carried out after hours as certain locations (such as the restaurant and bars) were not possible to access until 1am. These weren’t the only out-of-ours programmes we had to contend with, though, as Christmas decorations and the like all had to be considered.
Whilst a common equipment room is the ideal solution for backhaul connectivity and ongoing access, there were challenges throughout the implementation phase here as well. For individual MNOs to connect to each system, various contractors and transmission partners are required – and all want access to the room in similar timelines. Thankfully, the programme was expertly coordinated by the Arqiva Project Manager to ensure everything went smoothly.
Crossrail Place was the one location where in-building technology was most critical, as it’s built into the dock. With much of the building underground and below water level, radio signals have a particularly difficult time getting through. Leaving it as a signal void was simply not an option, though, as more than 25 million passengers are expected to pass the new Canary Wharf Crossrail station every year.
With 4G mobile signal now provided across all three sites, all the nearby venues will likely see dwell times improve and desirability grow. Savvy retailers can even offer targeted marketing promotions to customers as they walk through the shopping centre.
The timeline for this project was significantly boosted by Arqiva’s strong working relationship with Canary Wharf Group and the various MNOs. Start-up activity (design finalisation and commercial agreements) was conducted in the early summer and completed between May and July 2015.
DAS implementation at Crossrail Place followed between August and October, with Jubilee Place and Canada Place completing the trio between September and early November. The MNOs’ connection activities began in mid-November, which meant some went live before Christmas. All participating MNOs were fully live on all technologies by January 2016.
The 4G DAS project was as important as it was challenging. Now, with the three sites across Canary Wharf equipped with future-proofed, MNO-agnostic connectivity, it can certainly be considered a job well done. A job, that is, which was assisted at all turns by Arqiva’s expertise in connectivity and unrivalled relationships with MNOs.
Here is what was said when the project was completed...
“People expect to connect wherever they are, and from whatever device they have in their hands. Research from Arqiva revealed that 46% of people are more likely to return to a store if they have connectivity, and one in three people will stay in the store for longer. Browsing the internet whilst shopping is critical to the consumer experience and to the retailer’s bottom line, so mobile connectivity is vital. The future-proof in-building system that Arqiva has implemented for the Canary Wharf Group, which delivers 2G, 3G and 4G coverage, will ensure that commuters and shoppers will have a seamless mobile connectivity experience at all three retail centres – Canada Place, Crossrail Place, and Jubilee Place.”
“We want all of our visitors to be able to stay connected, wherever they are in Canary Wharf, especially as so many people use social media to share their experiences, be it shopping or socialising with friends on the Crossrail Roof Garden. Having a smooth and uninterrupted service also ensures the future-proofing of our technology.”
“Delivering a great customer experience using traditional mobile sites is an enormous, often impossible, challenge in complex, large new structures like these. In-building systems like this one ensure our customers stay connected wherever they are.”
“I’m delighted that, together with Arqiva, O2 customers working and shopping in Canary Wharf Groups’ retail centres will now experience faster mobile internet on their devices. This will allow them to stream high definition TV, shop on the go and make video calls. 4G is all about working more effectively and O2 business customers can be flexible through working remotely, get access to cloud services, and collaborate using apps and more. 4G will make everything easier for them.”
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