Thursday, August 11 2022

“Ensuring seamless mobile connectivity is an integral part of any digital transformation project, but achieving it is challenging at best due to complex building structures, raw materials used and multi-site requirements,” says Stuart Waine of Spry Fox Networks.

Keep pace with online public demand. Enable remote/hybrid working in incredibly short timeframes. Ensure access to vital services for the most vulnerable. These are just some of the challenges the public sector has faced as a result of the pandemic. To meet these expectations and maintain the ‘business as usual’, local government and the NHS have turned to technology and the progress made has been extraordinary. In fact, the crisis has triggered large-scale digital transformation across all utilities by providing the fast-forward button needed to overhaul legacy systems/networks and overhaul processes and operations.

Many digital services that went live in just a few weeks, as well as agile/hybrid work support are here for the long haul because of the benefits associated with it. In addition, digital investment in the public sector is expected to add £32 billion to the UK economy by 2040 through reinvestment and improved services, according to research by Blank media Company and the Center for Economic and Commercial Research (Cebr). Indeed, it should bring about positive changes for both the public sector and the community, including disadvantaged groups. It is therefore imperative that this appetite for digital transformation continues if the nation is to realize this potential boost.

While the rapid deployment of digital services at the height of the crisis was truly commendable, what has been highlighted in its wake is the antiquity of the communications infrastructure that underpins most of these services and their vulnerability to cybercrime. Much of this is due to organizations enabling remote working at short notice and by any means possible, with security little more than an afterthought due to the perceived expense versus risk. perceived. The reluctance to invest in security and disaster recovery has left the communications infrastructure in many public sector buildings vulnerable to attack, as some local councils are well aware, the ransomware attack on Hackney Council’s communication networks caused by sub-standard security and IT training are a prime example.

An underlying element of any digital transformation project is ensuring a reliable mobile phone signal. And getting there in conventional public sector properties is a challenge at best. Consider the average NHS hospital; providing reliable mobile coverage has always been difficult due to their sprawling layouts, complex structures, miles of internal hallways, not to mention stairwells, research labs, clinical theaters, CCTV control rooms , A&E admissions, etc. which are often located below street level and lack a mobile phone signal.

Mobile coverage is not limited to commercial cellular services either, it is the driving force behind IoT-based technologies including light control, access control, sensor technology and systems. video surveillance, as the communication mechanism for IoT technologies is currently cellular. Poor cellular coverage is also an issue in many regional offices and blue light service control rooms, as cellular (4G to be precise) is an integral part of data-driven technologies such as handheld devices, phone records, and more. electronic health (EHR), video streaming or access control.

While larger Tier 1 installations can overcome their coverage issues by implementing a carrier-connected DAS or a small cell, what about regional police/fire/district offices? ambulance or smaller local government buildings? Facility managers in these smaller premises don’t have the experience or budgets to implement a high-end solution like DAS, but they face the exact same connectivity challenges.

The only way to provide the necessary coverage levels in these situations is to bring the outdoor network indoors using additional equipment such as mobile repeaters. But before you even get to that, you need to assess the outdoor coverage situation as this will determine the type/number of repeaters needed and their configuration. Factors to consider include proximity to a mobile phone, mobile carriers, and the number of devices/services that need to simultaneously connect to the indoor mobile network.

Stuart Waine

This information can be obtained by performing a detailed mobile coverage survey, but most readily available tools do not provide a hierarchical view as they only consider the network coverage situation. Mobile coverage at the device level must also be considered, otherwise performance and quality of service will be compromised.

Deploying a mobile repeater-based solution is not always as straightforward as it first appears, as there is currently a loophole in repeater policies. If you don’t fully understand the rules, you could end up installing a contraband solution and the consequences of being caught can be costly and damaging. For a mobile repeater to be used legally in the UK it must meet strict criteria stipulated by Ofcom and few do.

Ensuring mobile connectivity inside any building has always been a moving target and will become even more so as 5G becomes universal. Forward planning from the perspective of a property owner/manager, especially for frontline public sector staff working around the clock, as they need seamless connectivity and access to all information at any time, in real time. Securing full network coverage doesn’t have to be a daunting and complex task as long as you have the right tools.

The author is Stuart Waine of Spry Fox Networks.

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