Back in 2006 at the outset of a project to deliver a truly world class conference and events venue to Dublin, it became obvious that any such facility would need the technology to match.
This meant using wireless infrastructure that not only supported commercial cellular coverage, but offered the possibility of adding Wi-Fi hotspots, two-way security radio and TETRA emergency service provision as and when required. And with large numbers of visitors moving in and around any such building, and concentrated in particular areas, it would also require the ability to deploy cellular sectors in different zones.
Today, with its iconic design, the Convention Centre Dublin (CCD) stands in the heart of Ireland’s capital city as a testament to these efforts, with its unified indoor wireless coverage supporting mobile broadband for international visitors to the venue.
With the project requiring a single infrastructure solution, with the capability of a wideband hardware platform that had little or no incremental cost as new services were added over time, the CCD opted for a wideband active Distributed Antenna System (DAS) solution from Zinwave International.
Colin Abrey, president of Zinwave International, explains that CCD required a solution that could cope with extremely high levels of usage by mobile users in a conference environment and with a convention capacity of 2,000 people.
‘Traditionally, we have relied upon the external macro network to give in-building cellular coverage, however the CCD was built using modern construction techniques and supplies such as steel reinforced concrete and titanium infused glass, which by their nature prohibits or attenuates RF signal penetration,’ he says.
Added to the equation was the need to cater for higher data rates for 3G and 4G smartphone coverage, which are particularly susceptible to attenuation on penetration of the building, something Abrey says drove the need for an in-building wireless coverage solution.
High volume of users
Key requirements included meeting the needs of the budget, ease of installation and a certain element of future-proofing, qualities the integrator OpenOptics saw in Zinwave.
‘As the building was a public-private partnership venture the solution had to meet the brief set out by the Office of Public Works, which specifically called for a system to be able to handle the high volume of conventioneers and had a technological life span of 10 years,’ says Abrey.
Furthermore, the venue was also looking for a system that was compatible with TETRA base station units without needing lots of bespoke elements and design.
According to Abrey, OpenOptics’ strategy is to build unified networks, so the extra capabilities like Wi-Fi and radio for security systems were key factors in the decision.
‘In particular, the RF requirements were for three sectors with a minimum level of -85db RSSI that was acceptable for both 1800 and UMTS,’ he adds. ‘Two carriers were required for UMTS and six to eight carriers required for 1800.’
The solution from Zinwave offered several other telling benefits.
Its low impact on the mechanical and electrical fit out of the building meant that it needed the least amount of cabling and could be installed quickly and easily.
‘Secondly, and of equal importance, was that the system was future-proofed,’ says Abrey.
As the Zinwave 3000 wideband solution covers all frequencies and wireless services between 150MHz and 2700MHz on one hardware layer it can easily cover the required cellular, TETRA and radio for security services.
‘This means additional services can be added without the need for supplementary hardware or infrastructure, therefore leaving the building owner or manager safe in the knowledge he has avoided further cost and disruption in the future,’ explains Abrey.
‘Lastly, it was regarded as low maintenance and could mesh well with building management and power backup systems. All in all, a great fit. A modern solution for a modern building.’
Of course, there were challenges and one of the most pressing was time.
With the system selection having been left until the last minute, the Zinwave solution had to be able to slot into the wiring programme quickly and with minimal disruption.
‘It was a race against time to have the upper floors of the building wired before the roof sealing took place. Additionally, there were a number of particular architectural features which had to be worked around with regards to ceiling tiles and post-installation accessibility,’ explains Abrey.
The first step involved wiring the building for 54 access points throughout five upper floors and two basement levels, and this included an atrium encased entirely in glass plus an auditorium.
‘Then simultaneous to installing the AP heads, we physically configured the primary and secondary hub units spread between two communication rooms to match the simplified wiring design,' adds Abrey. 'From there it was only a matter of configuring the service modules and integrating the operators. The physical configuration of the secondary hubs between two comms rooms and an internal link made a last minute request by the mobile operators to sectorise the system possible.'
As a result, Abrey says CCD has been enjoying the benefits of the system performing well, with the coverage matching the predictions and the capacity being well managed between three sectors.
'Additionally, as we integrated each carrier onto the system – as each dictated its own integration timeline – the system stood well and was easily tuned and reconfigured,' he says. 'The carriers in particular, who in Ireland had not engaged with an active system, were originally sceptical. I am delighted to say that the feedback has been all positive and many sceptics are now “active” believers.'
Abrey explains that each of the operators contributed a percentage of the capital cost with CCD paying the balance.
‘The carriers then each contributed a percentage towards the running costs with the client picking up the balance as well,’ he adds.
‘So for use of the system, each operator pays an access fee, which will recoup the client’s capital outlay at the end of the first five years. In short, the system yields approximately 25% for the investment and benefits from all the value-added services, which are offered by the carriers to their users.’
From the outset, the CCD was aware that the Irish Government would release another license for its 900 band, but at the time the system itself was only designed for UMTS and 1800 bands and had not been configured for the 900 band as none of the operators were providing services on it.
‘If one of the operators takes up the license as is predicted, then we are delighted that the system could be upgraded, without design change, to incorporate it,’ says Abrey.
‘This will be the first test in relation to the upgradability of the system, but it is definitely envisaged that over the next 10 years further services will be required and the system is readily adaptable in line with the brief set out by the Office of Public Works.’