5G Deployment: CBRS or C-Band?

Without a doubt, 5G is the future of wireless communications, enabling better user experiences and transforming the way we live. However, many technologies related to 5G can create more confusion than clarity, such as mmWave, 5G NR, sub-6, C-Band, CBRS, mid-band, high-band, etc.

The available radio spectrums involved in the deployment of 5G technology can be particularly complex and confusing. These spectrums vary depending on the region, with each spectrum enabling specific capabilities and services. Among the spectrums available for 5G deployments are those in the C-Band and the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS).

Both belonging to the mid-band spectrum, C-Band and CBRS are often mistakenly thought to be the same thing. To further benefit from the advanced technology of 5G, it is essential to understand the differences between these two and know how best to use each one.

The Lower C-Band

The recent C-Band auction licensed 280 MHz of spectrum between 3.7 and 3.98 GHz.  Previously, this spectrum was used for satellite transmission in areas where heavy rain degraded signals, but the usage of these frequencies declined over the years.

Negotiations for the release of C-Band spectrum for 5G use took several years to resolve. In 2020, the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) conducted an auction that enabled telecommunications providers to purchase rights to use the spectrum for their 5G networks. Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile were among the largest spenders in this auction, spending billions of dollars to gain exclusive rights to chunks of the C-Band frequencies.

Why were telcos willing to invest such massive amounts of capital in this frequency band?  The band contains enough spectrum to support larger 5G channels, while the frequency is still low enough to propagate well.  Whereas higher frequencies, such as in the mmWave bands, have very short transmission distances.

Currently, in the United States, only T-Mobile has access to spectrum capable of supporting 100 MHz 5G NR channels in their 2500TDD band 41.  The C-Band spectrum opens up the possibility for large 5G channels for all of the major network operators.  The promise of enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) to provide a superior mobile experience depends on large 5G channels.

The Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) Band

CBRS occupies 150 MHz of spectrum between 3.55 and 3.7 GHz. Three tiers of users with different levels of priority share this spectrum.

The first tier consists of incumbent users, such as satellite ground stations and the US military, making use of the CBRS band for mission-critical situations. Next are the priority access license (PAL) holders comprised of carriers, internet service providers and large enterprises who received licenses in the 2020 auction. Each license provides 10 MHz, and each PAL licensee could obtain up to four licenses in an area. The remaining channels are for general authorized access (GAA). These are essentially the same as the unlicensed Wi-Fi spectrum, which anyone can use freely as long as they do not interfere with traffic on the first two tiers.

The CBRS auction generated only 21 cents per MHz/pop. This is significantly lower than the 94 cents per MHz/pop generated by the C-Band auction. One plausible explanation for this is that CBRS license size limits the usefulness of the spectrum for 5G service requiring large channels.  However, it still plays a key role in building private networks, mostly based on 4G LTE, within large organizations.

C-Band vs. CBRS

The vast frequency range of C-Band makes it a prime spectrum choice for service providers. Its broad, dedicated channels and decent range provide plenty of bandwidth for wireless carriers using existing cell sites. However, not all 280 MHz of spectrum will be available right away after the auction. Existing satellite services must relocate first, and 5G networks must build the infrastructure to use the new frequencies. These tasks take time, so consumers will not benefit from this technology until 2022.

In contrast, CBRS is available now.  Most service providers initially intended to use this band for enhancing 4G LTE capabilities, but are also intent on using it to augment their 5G networks. However, the use of CBRS has been limited so far.

The bottom line is that spectrum is precious, and more spectrum is better.  Yet, while both bands provide access to more spectrum, the exclusivity that the C-Band provides yields more reliable use of spectrum for 5G and a longer timeframe to recover network investment.

What are the differences in use cases of C-Band and CBRS?

While they are both categorized under the mid-band spectrum, C-Band and CBRS have different strengths. Simply put, C-Band increases overall 5G capabilities and access. At the same time, CBRS is geared more toward augmenting 4G capacity, as well as novel solutions for private networks and entrepreneurial activity such as wireless ISP (WISP) services.

5G Deployment

Mainstream 5G deployments today mostly use general enhanced Mobile Broadband models. With 280 MHz of bandwidth, C-Band enables eMBB use cases for 5G. The abundance of its available spectrum and its propagation characteristics heighten its performance in indoor and enterprise situations that go beyond data communications services.

C-Band takes advantage of cutting-edge cellular technologies such as carrier aggregation and massive MIMO antennas. Aside from the large amounts of the spectrum it provides, it also performs well in non-line-of-sight conditions and indoor penetrations. These make it ideal for large deployments and will likely pave the way for new applications and connectivity services.

Although used mostly to complement LTE networks, CBRS also enables service providers to deploy 5G networks without acquiring spectrum licenses. However, it is better suited for private LTE and private 5G networks due to some limitations that make it ineffective for broad 5G use. For one, the channels in this spectrum are not universally accessible by all network operators. Moreover, there is the limitation on transmitted power that restricts its useful range for mobile applications, making CBRS more suitable for small coverage areas.

Enhanced 4G LTE

Due to its power limitations and other restrictions that make it inefficient as a base coverage layer, CBRS can add capacity within the 4G network and help bridge the shortcomings of Wi-Fi. In general, Wi-Fi technology is prone to suffering from insufficient coverage and network congestion. Private LTE addresses these problems by supporting up to twice the Wi-Fi capacity and protecting against network interference. For today’s enterprises, this increases app performance and facilitates more efficient workflows.

Aside from this, CBRS used in enterprise LTE provides a higher level of privacy and more secure access. Running enterprise LTE on the CBRS bands ensures that sensitive business data remains within the confines of a corporate network because access restrictions through login requirements and SIM cards avert potential hacking. These are crucial to sectors such as healthcare and financial services that require high levels of security.

Specialized IoT Applications

The Internet of Things (IoT) is transforming the digital economy. GPS navigation, utility meters, smart assistants, health trackers—these applications are becoming more prevalent and changing the way we live. With the immense benefits it brings, the IoT sector continues to expand, and mobile services play an important role in the growth of this market.

C-band supports IoT as well as personal mobile services relatively easily. This makes it the spectrum of choice for wide-area IoT services, with the capacity and coverage capabilities needed to deliver high-quality IoT services. Wireless service providers can control usage levels with this licensed spectrum to provide guaranteed service levels for IoT apps in critical-use situations, such as those in security and medical applications. While the higher bandwidths of mmWaves can undoubtedly deliver more bandwidth and lower latencies, C-band still plays a crucial role in broadening IoT use.

CBRS is also usable in specialized IoT applications. For example, PALs are likely to use private LTE deployed on CBRS for industrial, agricultural, and enterprise applications. Private networks maintain connections among IoT devices that automate industrial processes in factories and warehouses. CBRS-based private networks also can increase farm yield by using sensors on agricultural equipment to monitor repairs and environmental conditions.

Seamless Connectivity

Both spectrum bands will enable users to switch between access points seamlessly. They will reduce connectivity issues related to Wi-Fi, such as dropped calls and intermittent signals.

In residential and public spaces, such as multi-family dwellings, auditoriums, and shopping malls, CBRS-based private networks improve in-building connectivity. In business establishments, it can enhance both employee and customer experiences. Additionally, CBRS spectrum can also be used to provide connectivity in remote areas for telecommuting, e-learning or virtual classes, albeit with limitations.

Alternatively, C-Band presents a better choice for deployment to deliver wireless connectivity in low-density suburban and rural areas because its high-power limits, minimal coordination requirements, and large licensing areas make it more efficient and cost-effective for this use case. In coverage-limited deployments, CBRS can require as much as seven times more cell sites to achieve the same coverage that C-Band provides.

Deploy What Is Right for Business

The success of deploying cellular technologies relies heavily on the right choice of spectrum bands. While both C-Band and CBRS are essential for 5G network developments, the C-Band appears to have the edge in making the 5G eMBB use case more successful and profitable.

Still, there are continuous developments in the industry that may eventually change this. What is clear, though, is that the mid-band spectrum will be crucial in enhancing coverage and bandwidth to provide better user experiences.

As with all new technologies, the best practice is to start with a targeted deployment plan. Consider the current and future use cases of each technology to understand their potential impact in the long term.  When you are ready to deploy technology in either of these bands, SOLiD is here to help.  The SOLiD ALLIANCE 5G DAS provides full band coverage for both CBRS and C-Band.  And the edgeROU Fiber2Antenna DAS provides up to eight commercial cellular and private networking frequency bands over a single fiber strand to a lightweight, low-power, aesthetically pleasing DAS remote with high-performance integrated antennas.Visit https://solid.com/us/what-is-cbrs/ to learn more.

 

 


Looking Ahead to 2021: Our Top 5 Wireless Predictions

This past year (2020) was a busy year for the wireless world, particularly in the area of FCC auctions. The year started with the mmWave auction (a staggering 3,400 MHz of spectrum) completed in January, then the CBRS auction in March, and the RDOF (Rural Digital Opportunity Fund) auction in December. The C-band auction has yet to finish, and already $70 billion in gross bids have been tabled as of 12/24/21. Meanwhile, COVID-19 has forced many people to work from home and spend more time online, raising public awareness of high-speed connectivity and its vital importance to the economy.

 

So, what’s in store for 2021? Courtesy of SOLiD’s crystal ball, here are our predictions for what to expect in 2021:

  1. Ultra-high-speed 5G (mmWave) network buildouts will achieve critical mass.

Initial commercial deployments have focused on high visibility, high traffic venues – stadiums, airports, and downtown cores in some large cities. The mmWave ecosystem has markedly matured in the past year – from the availability of products from chipsets to radios to smartphones, to the robustness of the supply chain, to mobile operators acquiring spectrum. All this leads to a tipping point in 2021 of mmWave achieving critical mass in the market. Significant percentages of urban centers will provide mmWave 5G coverage for a truly differentiated user experience from low-band and mid-band services. 

  1. Rural and suburban Fixed Wireless Access will grow substantially and provide a much better broadband experience in traditionally underserved areas.

RDOF seeks to bridge the digital divide by extending fixed broadband (defined as download speeds of 25 Mbps and above) to underserved areas. Fixed broadband can be delivered by fiber or by wireless. As the first networks are built and put into service, more people will have the freedom to migrate away from cities and continue to work from home.

  1. Public venue attendance at stadiums, arenas, and racetracks will make a strong comeback in the fall as COVID-19 vaccinations achieve substantial distribution.

2020 has been a very difficult year on many levels. Lockdowns and other pandemic measures have kept people isolated, and the pent-up desire for the return to ‘normal’ continues to build. Once it is safe to do so in 2021, people will get out of their homes with much anticipation and excitement. This will no doubt unlock another round of telecommunication infrastructure refreshes and upgrades.

  1. The auctions and subsequent deployment of the mid-band spectrum will allow the U.S. to catch up on 5G availability.

Mid-band spectrum – expanding beyond Band 41 (2496-2690 MHz) to include CBRS (3.55-3.7 GHz) and C-band (3.7-3.98 GHz) – strikes a balance between the wide coverage of low-band and the bandwidth capacity of high-band (mmWave).Clearing and releasing much needed additional spectrum is vital to the overall viability of 5G, a fact that the FCC understands and has taken action on. Expect networks to be deployed and services to start rolling out in 2021.

  1. 5G killer apps will start to appear on the market.

5G promises to be a technology platform for innovation across many industries.  Beyond high speeds and capacity, it can also deliver traffic with the ultra-low latency required for autonomous vehicles, industrial automation, and robotics, AR/VR, online gaming, to name a few. As 5G achieves widespread coverage and critical mass, new consumer apps that leverage 5G’s high-speed, low-latency capabilities will become available. While picking the winners will be difficult, it will certainly be exciting to see 5G delivering its promise as an innovation platform.

 


ALLIANCE 5G DAS: Winning at Campus-wide Mobile Coverage

Higher education leaders know that mobile connectivity on campus needs to improve to meet current and coming bandwidth requirements. Many schools have made the pivotal decision to augment current cellular and Wi-Fi service with a distributed antenna system (DAS). Fully 45% of schools are considering technology to enhance network capacity, and 23% are considering in-building DAS.

It just makes sense. Offering seamless connectivity enhances a university’s ability to recruit students, gives event visitors a satisfying experience, and makes teaching in an increasingly digital classroom more effective.

There are significant barriers to offering full coverage. Diverse areas of campus present different challenges, including a variety of physical obstructions to overcome. Connectivity needs are growing exponentially, and it is no longer a question of whether to upgrading to full connectivity.  It is a question of when and how.

Multiple Needs, Multiple ALLIANCE 5G DAS Options

Students see mobile service as a necessary utility, a service that needs to work seamlessly everywhere. Staff needs to accomplish tasks related to registration, tuition, safety, and more. Professors face demands for increasingly digital classrooms, and connectivity ties everything together.

But the campus connectivity reality is far from ideal. SOLiD ALLIANCETM 5G DAS is the solution. The platform offers a diverse set of fiber optic-fed remote amplifiers that provide seamless coverage inside buildings, outdoors between buildings, and in large venues like stadiums and arenas.

As technologies like 5G and IoT continue to emerge, every campus will need to upgrade to full connectivity or risk being unable to compete.

Gen-Z is Driving the Need for Bandwidth

Incoming student populations know nothing but a digital world. For these students, dependency on smartphones goes beyond their use as a communication tool: 80% feel distressed without their phones, 70% spend at least two hours each day on YouTube, and 66% use multiple devices at the same time. It’s “not a problem,” but 40% say they’re phone-addicted. Digital services and applications are expanding, and bandwidth needs will only continue to grow.

Gen-Z students are bending the norms of how people learn. Online course enrollment has quadrupled over the last 15 years, students learn more independently with access to the internet, and classrooms are becoming increasingly digital.

Fully 68% of students say technology is a factor in their choice of schools, so implementing ubiquitous, always-on-everywhere connectivity is an investment with real fiscal benefits for higher education.

Safety Is Critical

Campuses are generally considered safe, but recent events in the news have made higher education increasingly security-conscious. The greatest concern for higher education leaders is the ability to notify every student, faculty or staff member, and visitor in an emergency. Active shooter scenarios, lockdowns, tornadoes, building fires, and weapons on campus are the top reasons higher ed campuses send out notifications.

Clery reporting is also a factor, perhaps the reason 100% of higher ed schools have at least one system installed and 70% have two or more systems

Security systems are becoming more complex, training for personnel and students is expanding, remote building locking is gaining popularity, and video surveillance is growing. Consistent, reliable connectivity is more important than ever for higher education security, and SOLiD’s ALLIANCE DAS public safety solutions provide the reliable coverage modern safety systems need.

What Stands in the Way of Full Mobile Service?

A number of factors can cause issues with connectivity on campus.

  • The idea that Wi-Fi solves everything. Wi-Fi is susceptible to interference and becomes overloaded with surges in traffic.
  • Campus buildings. A campus typically has a combination of heritage and modern buildings. Heritage building materials and architecture can stand in the way of signals, and LEED materials in modern buildings can do the same.
  • Multiple diverse locations. A campus needs coverage inside buildings, in open areas, in residence halls, and in stadiums and arenas. The SOLID ALLIANCE DAS platform has a solution for each location, and they all work together to provide coverage everywhere you need it.
  • Competing signals. In a densely populated area, multiple cell sites congest the airwaves, and too many signals cause connectivity issues.

 The SOLiD ALLIANCE DAS Solution has the Flexibility to Do It All

Do you need full coverage in a stadium? No problem. Does the Quad have poor reception? We have a solution. There’s no service in the Arts building? We’ll fix it. Do students complain about bad service in the dorms? We make it work.

ALLIANCE is our premier solution for higher education campuses. It offers flexible, scalable capacity with power classes ranging fromsub-1W to 40W. Our modular amplifiers cover every band used for commercial cellular communications, two-way radio, paging, and public safety from 150 MHz to 4 GHz.

When it comes to in-building mobile solutions, the ALLIANCE edgeROUTM  has the highest output power per band of any in-building DAS remote in its class. The remotes are small, unobtrusive, and aesthetically pleasing, and when installed on the ceiling they have a slim 1.5-inch profile.

 

Partner with SOLiD to Upgrade your Campus-Wide Connectivity

SOLiD has the experience, industry knowledge, and technology to evaluate, advise, plan, and implement a complete connectivity solution for your campus. SOLiD solutions are modular and scalable, so they are obsolescence-resistant, and you can make incremental changes without rip-and-replace.

Get the right partner to implement the always-on-everywhere mobile service you need to compete in today’s connected education environment. Call SOLiD at (888) 409-9997 or email us at info@SOLID.com, and take the first step toward delivering a fully-connected campus.

 


Reliable Connectivity is Critical to Higher Education Security

Always-on-everywhere mobile service is essential to creating a positive student experience on higher education campuses. Classroom learning is the most prominent application, but the need for reliable mobile connectivity goes far beyond classroom learning. Students want to research and do their work anywhere on campus. They want to connect easily with friends and family. Most importantly, they want to feel safe on campus.

In-Building Connectivity Issues Affect Coverage and Interrupt Security Measures

Many factors affect mobile coverage on campus.  To offer students, visitors, and staff the reliable mobile coverage they expect for day-to-day operations, and the safe campus experience they need, plan to overcome each of these factors:

  • Physical barriers stand in the way of cellular signals. Heritage building materials, unusual architecture, or modern LEED materials can stop cellular signals from covering all areas of a building or campus. Surrounding hills, trees, and adjacent structures can also block cellular signals.
  • Wi-Fi is sometimes seen as the best connectivity solution since it is inexpensive, and installation and moves are easy. But Wi-Fi is subject to interference and can become overloaded during sporting or educational events when usage spikes.
  • In-building cellular issues can also be caused, paradoxically, by too much signal. If there are too many overlapping signals in the area, the phone cannot use any of them effectively and can hop from one source to another, resulting in service interruptions.
  • Internet of Things (IoT) and 5G technologies are here, and that means even greater demands for bandwidth.
  • IT staff is responsible for supporting multiple applications and thousands of students, so cellular solutions must efficiently solve problems without increasing their burden.

Security Threats and Regulations Drive New Applications

While higher education campuses are generally safe, crimes happen. Property crimes account for 95.5% of campus crime. Violent crime makes up 4.1% of the total, and arson accounts for the remaining 0.4%. Among other recommendations, students use on-campus security apps and security cameras to protect valuables.

Schools install security systems, train security personnel and students, use applications to send push alerts to students, and provide security to students living off-campus. Fire protection, video surveillance, remote building locking, and a growing need for sophisticated card access control systems are essential to a modern campus security plan.

Government regulations requiring higher security levels continue to drive the need for increasingly sophisticated security measures, and higher education has to respond to receive government funding. Every new application requires always-on-everywhere connectivity.

The Clery Act

Changing legislation can make staying on top of government campus safety regulations challenging, and government funds can hang in the balance. Industry experts advise higher education to consult the Clery Act for guidance because it is less likely than other legislation to change.

The Clery Center website says, “The Clery Act is a consumer protection law that aims to provide transparency around campus crime policy and statistics. To comply with the Clery Act’s requirements, colleges and universities must understand what the law entails, where their responsibilities lie, and what they can do to foster campus safety actively.”

The Clery Act requires that the school keep a crime log, make it accessible to students and the public, and keep records for seven years.

Each of the systems that provide the necessary information requires connectivity, and reliability is critical for accurate reporting.

SOLiD Solutions

SOLiD DAS solutions deliver the campus-wide ubiquitous service providing students, staff, and visitors with an excellent experience. Part of that experience is knowing that wherever they are on campus, they are safe. Law enforcement or security guards are not always present in an emergency. The security app on a mobile phone is a finger tap away anywhere, anytime.

Every building on campus, no matter the materials or architecture, can offer seamless service provided by ALLIANCE 5G DAS designed and implemented by SOLiD certified engineers.

SOLiD’s ALLIANCE 5G DAS solution is a fiber-to-the-edge remote unit that is as easy to install as Wi-Fi, with an attractive, low-profile, integrated antenna. The edgeROU has the highest output power of any DAS remote in its class and offers excellent upgrade potential. As with all ALLIANCE 5G DAS products, upgradeability and modularity provide insurance against obsolescence.

In-house IT is already taxed with new security applications and government reporting requirements. Let SOLiD’s experts evaluate your campus and see what it would take to provide the always-on-everywhere service needed today and for the emerging applications of tomorrow. Contact your SOLiD advisor today at (888) 409-9997 or email us at info@SOLID.com.


Healthcare Tech Heroes: Keeping the Hands of Healthcare Connected

The most visible members of the healthcare team are the doctors and nurses who interact directly with patients. But there is a different, highly-specialized team that enables doctors and nurses to harness the amazing technological advancements that comprise our healthcare system today.

As a healthcare tech professional, you not only have to support equipment and systems to 99.999% reliability, you are also responsible for the connectivity that brings all the pieces together with HIPAA-compliance. At the bedside or in the ER, the care team then has the communication and information they need at their fingertips.

Delivering Better Outcomes and Patient Experience

The purpose of healthcare technology is to create a better outcome for the patient. When frontline healthcare workers have access to patient records in real-time, when a test result shows an immediately actionable condition, when the caregiver has more time to spend caring for the patient and takes less time going back and forth to the nurse’s station, technology has done its job.

It is undeniable. Technology improves the patient experience. 96% of healthcare facilities surveyed reported patient satisfaction scores improved with smartphone use. 32% of those said they improved dramatically.

Measuring Patient Experience

One of the tools for measuring patient experience is the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS). More than 8,000 patients nationwide complete the survey each day, and hospitals publicly report HCAHPS scores online on the Medicare website.

HCAHPS scores are important for three reasons:

  • The scores impact the hospital’s reputation, which affects revenue. The listings use a 5-star rating system, and patients use these to help select a healthcare facility.Higher ratings attract more patients and revenue.
  • HCAHPS scores can change the amount paid by Medicare and Medicaid. Some private insurers also use HCAHPS scores to determine reimbursement rates. The higher the rating, the greater the reimbursement, and the more benefit to the hospital’s bottom line.
  • The scores are an action plan for the healthcare facility to make improvements.

Seamless Connectivity is Key to Using Healthcare Technology Effectively

Communication is critical in the healthcare environment. Today’s healthcare technology is complex and requires significant bandwidth. Providing reliable in-building communication that is always on, everywhere is easier said than done.

Three strategies typically connect people and systems:

  • Wired service is reliable, but installation, moves, and changes can be costly because of the materials and labor involved. Most importantly, wired service does not provide mobile communication.
  • Wi-Fi is the most common type of in-building wireless service. It is quick and easy to install, and moves are simple. However, it is a finite resource that slows under heavy use and provides a lower quality of service to devices in motion.
  • Cellular provides superior performance for mobile communication and higher capacity, but gaps occur indoors because of building materials, architecture, and distance from outdoor towers.

Connectivity for Today and Tomorrow

Technology is developing so fast that any in-building mobile solution must not only support today’s needs, but it has to be expandable for coming developments. IoT, 5G, artificial intelligence, telemedicine, wearables, all of these are here or emerging, and all require reliable in-building mobile connectivity.

Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) are the technology of choice where scalable, modular, reliable in-building mobile connectivity is critical. A DAS distributes mobile signals from the radio to antennas deployed throughout the building to cover even the hardest-to-serve corners. Think operating rooms with yards of stainless steel or shielded x-ray rooms that can stand in the way of a cellular signal.

SOLiD’s ALLIANCETM DAS edgeROUTM has the highest output power per band of any DAS remote in its class with upgrade options from four bands to six or eight with little effort. It is as easy to install as Wi-Fi while requiring very little equipment, itfits in the tightest IT closet space, and the antennas have a slim one-inch profile. ALLIANCE DAS is obsolescence-resistant because of its modularity. SOLiD’s fiber-to-the-edge solution further increases the solution’s dependability and its ability to expand as needed.

The SOLiD Solution

You already have a tremendous amount of responsibility for managing the equipment and technology you care for, and the stakes are high. Patient lives depend on it. You can delve into DAS as an unfamiliar technology and expend a tremendous amount of time and energy as you research the best decision.  Or you can partner with a company that has the industry knowledge, current technology, experience, and a track record of results. SOLiD has been providing in-building DAS systems for more than 20 years. We partner with you to engineer a connectivity solution that fully covers a building or set of buildings for today and has the flexibility to grow for the future.

Healthcare will only become more connected as technology continues to develop. Bandwidth demands will expand, and the voices crying for reliable bandwidth will get louder. SOLiD can quiet the loud voices and prepare you for the future of connected healthcare. Contact your SOLiD advisor today at (888) 409-9997 or email us at info@SOLID.com.


Improving Patient Experience in the Digital Age

Improving Patient Experience in the Digital Age

Advancements in technology have created an era of connected healthcare, streamlining routine tasks for providers, and leaving more time for patient interaction. Innovation is continuing, and emerging technologies promise to improve the patient experience further. 

Each technology advance places greater demands on communications infrastructure. Facilities seem designed to defeat mobile signals, Wi-Fi is overburdened, and public safety and privacy requirements add complexity. The continued application of new tools and the continued improvement of patient experience depends on the availability of reliable wireless communications everywhere in a healthcare facility. 

What Is a Great Patient Experience?

According to Forbes, some of the highest priorities for patients are timeliness, kindness, hope, and certainty. Healthcare facilities are increasingly using new technology and wireless networks to deliver information efficiently, leaving time for the personal, compassionate healthcare that leads to exceptional patient experiences. 

Improving patient experiences is a worthy goal in itself, but it can also tangibly impact hospital reputation and profitability. The Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey is a tool that measures patient experience and offers ways healthcare facilities can improve. HCAHPS scores influence patient facility choices, and better scores can mean higher reimbursements for hospitals. 

Smartphone Use Improves Patient Satisfaction

The use of smartphones at the bedside - often BYOD - is a powerful and growing trend, and patient satisfaction is growing along with it. Fully 96 percent of healthcare organizations that implemented smartphones saw increases in patient experience scores, and 32 percent of those were dramatic increases. Smartphone access has resulted in some astonishing results.

But healthcare facilities are innovating far beyond smartphone use. Artificial Intelligence, 5G, wearables, telehealth, The Internet of Things (IoT) - all of these are here or on the horizon, and all rely on reliable, always-on bandwidth. 

Baylor Scott and White Offers MyBSWHealth for Patient Access

Baylor, Scott and White's MyBSWHealth app enables patients to view test results, track immunizations, get information about medications, set appointments, communicate with doctors, and pay medical bills. Patients can access medical information from anywhere via the mobile app, and if authorized, can see information for family members. 

Streamlined routine tasks mean more time for providers to interact with patients. And giving patients easy access to information increases engagement and creates better healthcare outcomes.

Anne Arundel Medical Group Uses Technology to Speed Diagnosis

Anne Arundel Medical Center is deploying VisualDX to make diagnoses faster and more accurate for patients. The system can help diagnose, among others, dermatological conditions, drug reactions, infectious diseases, and ophthalmic issues. It can also aid in interpreting x-rays. 

Physicians access the tool from an online portal or smartphone and enter the patient's symptoms. The tool narrows down the possible diagnoses from about 3,000, offers photos, and builds graphics or "Sympticons" to assist in diagnosis. The platform integrates with the patient's electronic health records, so information about age, gender, medications, allergies, etc., is readily available.

Mayo Clinic Offers Voice to Meet Patients Where They Are

The Mayo Clinic improves patient experience with increased engagement between patients and healthcare providers. Mayo Clinic began offering voice applications in 2017 with its award-winning first aid application for Alexa devices. Voice technology enables patients to access medical information three times faster than typing. 

Next is the expansion to Google Assistant-enabled devices and an Artificial-Intelligence-powered voice chatbot for diagnostics and better patient follow-up after discharge. Researchers are experimenting with diagnoses using voice clues in telemedicine programs. Mayo Clinic is investigating wearables, smart speakers, and other devices that could alert patients to problems or remind them to take medication. 

Geisinger Health Reaches for Unforgettable Experiences

Geisinger Health in Pennsylvania wants to provide patients with kindness and compassion and an unforgettable experience. To that end, they launched their ProvenExperience app patient feedback application. The app is groundbreaking because a dissatisfied patient can request a refund for their part of the bill, something unheard of in healthcare. 

In the first year, Geisinger paid about $500,000 in refunds – less than 0.5% of annual revenue. But as a result, direct messages to Geisinger relating to care increased 23%. The feedback led to new website design and improved ways for patients to contact doctors and access healthcare information. 

Reliable, On-Demand Bandwidth is Key to Providing a Great Patient Experience

What is common to all these applications is that they require flexible, always-on bandwidth. Yet diverse architectural styles, building materials, and even the stainless steel in operating rooms can block cellular signals. SOLiD builds reliable in-building mobile systems so providers can offer information, kindness, compassion, and hope. Call at (888) 409-9997 or email us at info@SOLID.com and let us provide you with the seamless bandwidth that changes good patient experiences into great ones.


Seven Tips to Improve In-Building Mobile Coverage

If you hear complaints from tenants about cellular service in your building, you are not alone. More than 60% of property and facility management executives have had the same experience, and more than 80% say that prospective tenants ask about a building’s mobile service quality. You might recognize a few of these challenges to providing reliable service.

# Challenge Tip
1 My building is working against me: sound absorption measures, LEED materials, and design improvements are blocking cellular signals.

 

Deploy inside-to-inside coverage technology, positioning antennas to provide service in the hardest-to-reach areas.
2 Every Wednesday, our coverage gets worse: usage peaks, so coverage and capacity drop. Engineer the system to peak usage.
3 We want to look upscale: visible IT equipment and people pooling outside to make calls don’t fit our image. Invest in technology that meets the tenant need and can be completely hidden or cleverly disguised.
4 We’re facility and IT pros, not RF engineers: many cellular systems require complex installations, coax installation, and ongoing tech support. Opt for technology that is as easy as Wi-Fi and shares the same or improved technology with other devices in the building.
5. Here today, gone tomorrow: we hear all the time about the next greatest thing. Should we wait or go ahead and take a chance on obsolescence? Choose manufacturers that have a history of technology innovation and a modular system that can scale with you.
6. We need to get bandwidth in and out of our building: the access and backhaul pathways are equally important. Use a fiber-based technology as a foundation to give you confidence that current and future needs will be met.
7. We are overwhelmed: it sounds great, but we don’t have the people or experience to pull it off. Work with a partner that has a history of meeting complex cellular challenges, has existing industry relationships, and keeps it simple for you.

Overcoming communication challenges goes a long way toward creating a positive tenant experience and the loyalty that goes with it. SOLiD specializes in cost-effective solutions that deliver the robust service tenants need, with the equipment tucked nicely into available spaces. Moves and changes are easy with SOLiD’s modular technology.

You have in-building communication challenges? SOLiD has solutions. Call at (888) 409-9997 or email us at info@SOLID.com and let us help you overcome your in-building mobile challenges.


Choosing the Right Wireless Partner: Who Are You Inviting to the Dance?

Third in a 3-part series

Missteps are always possible in a dynamic, ever-changing wireless environment. Consequently, decision-makers need to get all the facts. It is vital to understand all the options. For both savings and efficiency, you want to choose the right wireless partner.

There are ways to avoid costly missteps when deploying your in-building wireless solutions. Enterprises know the sting of being stuck with legacy tech that is inefficient and costly to maintain. Premature obsolescence is expensive. Whenever possible, select a provider offering modular solutions that scale as you grow. Modularity allows for incremental expansion of your wireless infrastructure, whatever the future brings.

Selecting the Right Vendor: Do's and Don'ts

The ideal wireless partner meets your needs without bias or limitation. Multi-carrier wireless solutions reduce redundant network layers. You can identify a single vendor capable of delivering a complete turnkey solution that addresses all of your in-building wireless issues. Or, you might use multiple specialists to address your needs.

Wireless carriers install and maintain mobile networks. However, they only make in-building investments in the largest and most heavily trafficked venues. It is not cost-effective for them to do otherwise. Neutral-host, third-party owners fill the void, delivering turnkey, in-building wireless connectivity where carriers do not. Neutral-host distributed antenna systems (DAS) are a common choice in large office buildings. Third-party owners typically use a monthly recurring revenue model with or without an upfront capital expenditure.

DAS integrators also provide everything needed for a turnkey system. These services include RF benchmarking, site survey, design, installation, testing, and commissioning. Once the system is up and running, the DAS integrator offers monitoring and maintenance. You own the system.

As you compare providers, consider costs, funding models, and your level of control. Certain advantages accrue when building owners assume responsibility for in-building wireless. Or, they may prefer to offload these tasks to third-party providers.

Addressing In-building Wireless Needs: A Systematic Approach

Wireless technology is always changing, and demand is increasing. In a competitive business climate, complacency is not an option. At the same time, the bewildering array of choices may leave you feeling overwhelmed.

Take a step-by-step approach to simplify the task at hand. As the saying goes, every journey begins with a single step:

  • Needs assessment
  • Gauge future demand
  • Compare options vis-a-vis cost and efficiency
  • Select vendor(s)
  • Regularly evaluate and watch for new developments

Needs assessment

A comprehensive needs assessment is the first step. Make informed decisions about the mix of wireless technologies to embrace. There are various technologies available to solve in-building connectivity issues.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What is your existing fiber/cable infrastructure?
  • Do you need building-wide coverage to meet cellular and public safety requirements?
  • Where is the additional capacity required to meet demand? (i.e., conference centers, meeting rooms)
  • What are your aesthetic requirements?
  • Which mobile carriers' services are needed?
  • What frequency bands do you require?
  • What support do you need for future IoT requirements?

It is essential that you consider both current and future needs every step of the way. 

Site survey & system design

The site survey includes a review of floor plans and a site walk to assess wall materials, available antenna locations, and cable pathways. It also features testing the current RF signal levels and quality. RF interference, low-E glass, steel beams, and concrete are typical challenges. These assessments enable you to make informed economic decisions about the nature and scope of the solution, and the DAS design engineers to economically meet your objectives while satisfying the requirements of the mobile network operators.

System installation

Identify the most efficient, cost-effective option for your in-building upgrade. Proceed with installation.

  • Confirm the new system design complies with the requirements of mobile operators
  • Draft agreements with mobile operators regarding the re-transmission of in-building RF signals
  • Use the site survey and system design plans to install fiber/cable, DAS head-end, and remotes
  • Commission the system, integrate the service providers' signal sources and verify operations and monitoring capabilities

Follow these steps, and you'll get the wireless solution you need now. You'll also get one that is scalable in the future.

System monitoring and maintenance

System integrators and third-party owners provide monitoring and maintenance services. Changes to the outdoor network may affect performance in the indoor network. Proactive monitoring and maintenance protect your in-building connectivity investment, and many potential problems may be diagnosed and resolved with remote access to reduce costs and disruption caused by technicians coming to your venue. A service agreement frees you to attend to your essential responsibilities.

Summary

Reliable, 24/7 in-building wireless is a "must-have" for most enterprises. HD streaming, increased use of mobile devices, public safety requirements, and the IoT are just some of the forces driving demand. Seamless coverage at expected speeds drives worker productivity and enhances visitor satisfaction. The task seems daunting at first, but with the right partner, project success becomes the reward. All stakeholders benefit when there's a state-of-the-art wireless solution in place.

SOLiD: Your Trusted Advisor

Count on SOLiD to be the voice of clarity in today's rapidly evolving wireless environment. Our team will demonstrate how to develop a simple, affordable in-building wireless solution customized for your unique situation. Join the many hospitals, property managers, universities, and Fortune 500 companies who already trust us.

To learn more about solving your connectivity concerns, connect with us today.


Weary of Wireless Woes? Choose the Right Options for Savings and Efficiency

Second in a 3-part series

Today's expanding mobile-use raises expectations for fast, seamless connectivity. Still, priorities vary from venue to venue. Is your primary goal worker productivity, visitor convenience, public safety, or all the above?

Wireless connectivity woes grab the attention of building owners, managers, and other stakeholders. Workers and guests don't like dropped calls, slow downloads, and other shortcomings.

Most of the increase in mobile traffic is indoors. About 80 percent of data traffic occurs indoors. At the same time, smart buildings rely on a rapidly evolving Internet of Things (IoT). One source estimates the global smart building market size is projected to reach US$109 billion by 2026, with a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 12.6%.

The Proliferation of Wireless Tech

The rapid evolution of wireless connectivity options confounds many. Do you feel overwhelmed by all the choices? Are you unsure of what is right for your organization today and tomorrow? Certainly, you are not alone.

The arrival of 5G and CBRS really spice up the mix. CBRS-based private networks offer building owners/managers new control over their in-building wireless services. At the same time, 5G deployments present new challenges. Deloitte observes that 5G's millimeter bands tend to "have limited range and lower penetration." This requires special accommodations in office buildings. 5G remains a nascent technology requiring specialized phones and equipment. As Deloitte says, "In reality, 5G is very much in the "build" phase right now." Still, Gartner projects 5G network infrastructure revenues of $4.2 billion, a year-over-year increase of 89 percent.

Seeking the Ideal Solutions

Astute stakeholders seek timely, simple, and affordable in-building wireless solutions in office buildings, hospitals, universities, and corporate headquarters. Those in charge seek wireless solutions delivering excellent ROI and simple scalability.

Every surfer wants to ride the best wave. Jumping on the board too early or too late doesn't work. The same is true with in-building wireless connectivity. When it comes to delivering exceptional service, you want to select the right wave. Time your move based on solid due diligence. The best wireless solutions offer both savings and efficiency. Building owners and managers that meet user expectations seize a competitive edge.

Picking the Right Options

Your venue's perfect mid-point lies somewhere between future-ready and overkill. To address wireless demand, building owners/managers have many options.

Distributed antenna systems (DAS)

A distributed antenna system (DAS) features antennas and amplifiers strategically positioned throughout a structure to provide continuous edge connectivity.  DAS provides multi-carrier service, reliable signals, and robust capacity scaled to your needs.  Your long-term cost of ownership benefits from the excellent scalability and upgradeability of DAS.

DAS is often an ideal solution when there is a high volume of users in large buildings exceeding 100,000 sqft in size. A scaleable direct connection to cellular networks prevents overloading. DAS delivers seamless, reliable in-building connectivity without undue expense or excess complexity.

Ideal DAS solutions are:

  • Fiber-based -- Fiber does not become obsolete, and it offers virtually unlimited bandwidth to support applications today as well as tomorrow.
  • Full-spectrum -- You want to minimize hardware costs. Therefore, employ a DAS solution that supports the full range of cellular and public safety frequencies.
  • Ready for tomorrow -- You'll want a system that allows you to add new frequencies in the future. Modular systems invariably improve ROI.

Signal repeaters/boosters

Cellular signal boosters are network extenders that provide coverage but do not add capacity. A booster captures an outside signal, amplifies it, and transmits it. Signal boosters work across all radio frequencies used by the major cellular providers.

Small cells

Small cells are nodes strategically positioned throughout a structure. They deliver a reliable cellular signal in places where the signal was weak or non-existent. They do not support multiple carriers operating at various frequencies. In the workplace, BYOD devices present a problem. To accommodate mobile devices using various networks, you will need multiple layers of small cell equipment, increasing capital, and installation costs.

Small cells resolve capacity and coverage issues in smaller office buildings. They create hotspots where coverage is otherwise lacking or insufficient. The limitation is that they are carrier-specific.

Wi-Fi solutions

Now, Wi-Fi 6 enters the picture. The Wireless Alliance designates qualifying equipment as Wi-Fi Certified 6. The next-gen standard delivers higher data rates, increased capacity, and improved power efficiency. It performs well in settings where many devices are simultaneously connected.

Users remain connected to the Wi-Fi network as they move about within the building's wireless local area network (WLAN) coverage area. However, coverage ends as the user exits the building. By contrast, a cellular network delivers direct internet access as the mobile user transitions from indoors to outdoors or vice versa.

Wi-Fi and cellular coverage are not an either-or proposition. They complement each other.  The business and consumer demand for bandwidth is great and increasing by the day with no end in sight.  The amount of bandwidth provided by cellular networks greatly exceeds the bandwidth available for use by Wi-Fi.  In the years ahead, a large amount of additional spectrum will be specified for use by both Wi-Fi and cellular networks.

Planning for Indoor Wireless: Today & Tomorrow

There is little doubt that future demand for indoor wireless will grow, but at what pace? What surprises lie just around the corner? Whenever possible, avoid the plague of repeated retrofitting. For many, the best wireless solutions are those that are eminently scalable.

Due diligence is vital in achieving the desired balance between savings and efficiency.

SOLiD: Your Trusted Advisor

Count on SOLiD to be the voice of clarity in the ever-changing world of wireless connectivity. Learn more about solving your connectivity issues. Learn more about the latest technologies.

Connect with us today!


In-Building Wireless Coverage Solutions

First in a 3-part series

Today, everyone expects fast, reliable wireless service both indoors and outdoors, whether it’s for personal use, business applications, or to meet the needs of first responders and public safety personnel.

Looking to the future, an array of new mobile devices – like 5G-capable smartphones, wearables, and Internet of Things (IoT) smart devices – will also require connectivity and increase expectations for quality wireless service everywhere.

For building owners and managers, addressing this soaring demand for wireless capacity requires prompt, smart decisions. Every in-building environment is different, with its own set of challenges. As competing solutions vie for attention, it can be hard to know which one is best for your property.

Wireless Terminology

To help you get started, SOLiD offers this primer to understand standard industry terms and wireless connectivity solutions.

Outdoor Cell Site

Every mobile carrier – Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, etc. – builds outdoor cell sites, typically referred to as “macrocells,” to provide cellular coverage for their subscribers. These sites include antennas, a base station receiver, transmitters, GPS, and backup power.

The equipment reliably transmits signals to and from mobile devices in the area. Antennas can be attached to a cell tower placed on a rooftop.

The typical coverage area for a macrocell is up to three miles. Often, multiple carriers and public safety agencies will share a macrocell site to serve their subscribers and support emergency services in the coverage area.

In dense urban areas, cellular equipment can also be placed on utility poles or other types of street furniture to provide service to high demand areas. The coverage range of these installations may be as small as a few hundred feet.

Often, the macrocells in a given area cannot provide adequate coverage for all of the connected devices. Plus, natural barriers – like hills and trees – or manufactured substances – such as concrete and glass – can block signals and degrade coverage, especially inside buildings. In these cases, several technologies can fill in coverage gaps. These include distributed antenna systems, repeaters, and small cells.

Distributed Antenna Systems

Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) operate both indoors and outdoors. DAS deployments began in the late 1980s. Today they are often found in large office buildings, hospitals, hotels, universities, airports, stadiums, and underground transit systems.

DAS solutions serve two essential purposes. First, they deliver cellular service indoors where signals from macrocells are weak or nonexistent. Second, they provide dedicated capacity in a building rather than sharing it with all of the subscribers covered by a cell tower. Each DAS is scaled to meet building occupancy and bandwidth demands.

A DAS features strategically-placed antennas throughout an indoor venue to expand and enhance wireless connectivity. The antennas connect to DAS remotes.  Each remote connects via fiber optic cabling to a centralized headend.  The headend aggregates and distributes signals between the service providers’ base stations and the DAS.

Signal Booster/Repeater

A cellular signal booster uses an antenna placed outside the building and an amplifier connected to indoor antennas to rebroadcast the mobile network inside the building.

Signal boosters have limitations. For example, they cannot sufficiently amplify weak signals and are typically used only for smaller coverage areas. Signal boosters are less common due to potential interference and capacity planning issues, and they can only improve signal levels but cannot increase capacity.

Small Cell

As the name implies, small cells are downsized versions of larger macrocell base stations. Their small size allows mobile carriers to install them in places closer to the end-user to improve signal reception and capacity. Small cells provide a smaller coverage area versus traditional macrocells, but they deliver signals to areas the macrocells can’t reach economically.

A small cell effectively addresses the needs of a modest number of individuals using a single carrier in a small space. By contrast, a DAS is a multi-carrier solution, potentially serving a large number of users throughout a large building or campus environment.

Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi provides a wireless data connection delivered via a router to the internet. Users remain connected as long as they move about within the wireless local area network. By contrast, a cellular network service – delivered by DAS, small cells, or repeaters – offers direct internet access and voice communications without a router throughout the mobile network.

Wi-Fi is a suitable low-cost solution to provide wireless internet access for many applications, but it is not a substitute for cellular mobility. Cellular networks also offer more capacity and superior security.

What is the Best Solution for your In-Building Connectivity Needs?

The best solution for your needs should be considered from a few different dimensions and discussed with a reputable solution provider. You will need to determine: is the site experiencing capacity or coverage deficiencies?  Is the bandwidth demand static or dynamic?  Is there a requirement to provide service for many or all of the wireless service providers? And what is the available budget?

SOLiD: Your Trusted Advisor

We hope you have come away with a basic understanding of the different solutions available today. Picking the right option for your particular needs will be further explored in the next blog post on this topic.

In a sea of seemingly endless wireless options, it is essential to zero in on what’s best for your organization both today and tomorrow. Trust SOLiD to help you better understand your options.

SOLiD has already delivered many thousands of DAS remotes around the world. Our DAS solutions consistently deliver the best price/power ratio. As you sort through your wireless options, count on SOLiD to be the voice of clarity.

Connect with us to learn more about solving your connectivity issues.