30 March 2021

Five things to consider when planning a network

The core challenge facing network planners are ensuring coverage and capacity while maintaining high network availability. All factors have a direct impact on both the quality of the radio communications network and the total costs of ownership (TCO).

We have identified the five factors that we believe network planners need to consider to get the most optimal, cost-efficient and future-proof network:

1. Spectrum requirements
2. Availability and redundancy
3. Network complexity
4. Future-proofing investments
5. Optimizing the TCO

Spectrum requirements

When planning a network, one of the first steps is to identify the requirements for spectrum. Questions that should be considered include the number of users and the topology of the network. For instance:

- Is the coverage area a wide, open space with relatively few users?
- It is a highly populated environment with lots of structures and a significant number of users that require indoor coverage?
- Are there any special coverage needs such as in-building, subterrain and in-tunnel settings?
- Or is the coverage area a hybrid of different types?

Having established these, coverage and capacity requirements can be calculated, which in turn will help planners choose the most effective and cost-effective solution.

However, it is important not only to consider immediate network needs. Network planners also need to ensure that the investment is futureproof, particularly as frequencies are often scarce. This means that both current and future coverage and capacity requirements must be calculated and estimated.

Availability and resilience

High availability is crucial in a critical communications network to ensure adequate coverage. However, in all systems there is a risk of failure. Looking to ensure high availability and resilience, there are therefore a number of questions you need to ask:

- Which setup will provide the highest availability in the given circumstances?
- How can a network recover services in case of a base station breakdown or loss of network connectivity?
- How do we build redundancy into the network?

Resilience can be built into a network in different ways and on different levels, so the task here is to find the most optimal solution for the network in question.

Network complexity

To ensure good radio coverage and capacity, combined with the required redundancy, a network easily becomes complex. This is especially the case if you need to add external elements like optical or off-air repeater systems and distributed antenna systems (DAS).

With this complexity follows complex and expensive installation, operation and maintenance that involves:

- Various system with need for separate cabling, dedicated shelters etc.
- Running several management systems
- The need for many different spare parts
- Training operational and maintenance staff in different systems

Reducing the complexity of the network is therefore crucial, and the possibility of installing a system using just one type of hardware should be explored. Not only would this reduce the different types of spare parts needed, it also makes management of the network a lot simpler.

With indoor systems requiring expensive dedicated shelters and air conditioning, it is also worth considering how these costs can be minimized.

Future-proofing investments

With PMR networks typically being long-term investments, it is crucial that the network is upgradeable and can adapt to future needs. Future-proofing your investment involves anticipating future capacity and coverage requirements and should take its starting point in a number of questions like:

- Are we planning to expand the network?
- Will there be a requirement to support more subscribers?
- Will we need to be able to interoperate with adjacent networks?
- Will we need more frequencies?
- Will we be integrating LTE or other technologies?

We can never accurately predict the future. However, addressing the questions above will give you a better chance of creating a future-proof network with a focus on flexibility and scalability.

Optimizing the TCO

The answer to the question of how to optimise your TCO lies in the results of all the considerations you have done in relation to the above questions. When …

- selecting the right infrastructure for your particular network, you will get the optimal network that caters to your specific needs in terms of numbers of users and topology

- creating a network with high availability and resilience, you will safeguard yourself against network breakdowns and costly downtime

- reducing network complexity, this will often involve limiting the number of systems and different types of hardware and software needed. When doing so, installation becomes quicker, fewer spare parts are needed, and training and maintenance becomes much more sufficient

- selecting a system, choosing an outdoor solution can eliminate the need for expensive dedicated shelters and air conditioning. In addition, outdoor solutions have a very low power consumption, reducing operational expenses, and some can even run on solar power

- looking for a future-proof solution, this not only means that your system will be easier to expand and evolve. Most likely it will also mean implementing the most modern solution on the market, ensuring state-of-the-art features and functions here and now that will optimise your network.

Want to know more about what to consider when building a network or how to overcome common challenges?

Then please contact sales@damm.dk and we will get in touch with you.

Interested in learning how our products can help you plan a high-performing, cost-efficient and future-proof network?

Then check out the DAMM MultiTech Outdoor Base Station BS422, which includes the frequency sharing feature.

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