Spectrum Analyzer Accelerates Project Deployment, Delivering Full Visualization of Root Cause while Troubleshooting DAS and Small Cell Installs
Other than the well-known race towards LTE technology, there are a few other trends that are shaping the entire cellular industry. Two of them really stand out:
1. A shift in mobile wireless communications from outdoors to indoors, with nearly 80% of worldwide mobile data traffic originating and ending inside a building, especially in the urban environments. 1Also it is estimated that 50% of traffic originates in 10% of buildings. In this scenario, there is a serious mismatch in terms of where coverage is required vs where it is available, as the current coverage rollouts are in favor of macro networks.
2. Also the amount of traffic crossing the mobile networks has increased multi-fold due to the BYOD phenomenon and bandwidth-intensive applications such as video. Based on Cisco® Visual Networking Index (VNI), mobile data traffic globally will grow 13 fold between 2012 and 2017. All of these situations have led to a complete change in the way telco carriers look at deploying mobile wireless networks.
- TABLE OF CONTENTS
- The Challenges of DAS and Small Cell Deployments
- Two Key DAS and Small Cell Installation Imperatives
- Spectrum Analyzers – The Critical Tool Commonly Missing In Action
- AirMagnet Spectrum ES – For Every Stage of the Project Lifecycle
- AirMagnet ES Highlights
One of the more efficient ways of satisfying these new coverage and capacity requirements and offloading the macro data traffic is by getting closer to the end user. And what better way than installing an In Building Wireless Network. There are multiple technologies that can be used to meet the coverage, capacity and performance needs of the users or the venue owner, namely Wi-Fi, Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) or Small Cells. We will be focusing on DAS and Small Cell in this white paper. Offloading broadband traffic via Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) and small cells is proving extremely valuable to operators. DAS and small cell solution deployments are experiencing enormous growth as licensed and private mobile operators rush to meet network data demands. What was once a peripheral method to improve the user experience in high traffic locations is now one of the fastest growing sectors for system integrators and professional service providers.
DAS and small cell solutions offer operators a convenient and economical fix for high traffic areas. ABI Research also estimates that 48 percent of macro network traffic will be offloaded to DAS and small cells by 2014 because of the substantial cost savings and rapid deployment they offer, compared to a macro network solution. DAS and small cell solutions are faster to implement and mitigate the inherent potential challenges of jumping the zoning hurdles and avoiding the high costs for new tower sites. In most cases, it is the system integrator’s responsibility to magically and perfectly deliver the benefits of a DAS and small cell network, by deploying them right the first time.
Satisfying the needs, expectations and demands of new DAS and small cell customers is one of the greatest challenges facing the system integrator and professional service community. Whether the customer/owner is a network operator/carrier, or an enterprise organization (stadium, resort, university campus, hospital, malls, airports, other public venues, or a carpeted office), integrators ultimately must meet either the licensed carriers’ stringent specifications or the expectations that enterprise organizations have for efficiently installed systems. Integrators are required to be at the top of their game to accomplish the project criteria. Falling short of perfection leads to failing customer satisfaction and ultimately jeopardizes the commercial relationship and can impede future business opportunities.
In the world of wireless, often referred to as “smoke and mirrors,” system integrators have to carry the water and deliver it in an unstable and often unpredictable environment. They must work with both licensed and unlicensed spectrum contingencies and regularly overcome interference issues from not only normal sources but also arcane causes such as fluorescent lights, frequency jammers and other difficult to discover sources.
As an owner of a regional integration company put it on condition of anonymity, network operator management frequently green lights a new or upgraded DAS system and then wants the project to be designed, installed and fully operational quickly, inexpensively and perfectly. System integrators must be able to demonstrate not only their expertise delivering the required solution but be able to assure the customer they have not only the knowledge, but the latest tools and equipment to do so. Add to the fast, cheap and great equation, the requirements additional carriers piggybacking on the system may demand and the challenges intensify exponentially.
The financial rewards of delivering superior systems and service to DAS and small cell customers can be exceptional. However, along with the upside of the business comes the downside. Integrators are responsible for controlling the deployment budget and that means being in control of incremental costs. All stakeholders pay the price when an installation is not built correctly the first time. The installation company bears added costs of “go-backs” to rectify problems – not to mention losing credibility with the customer. The customer, whether a network operator, neutral operator or enterprise, loses their expected benefits the operational system will deliver. And ultimately the end user loses with degraded broadband service on which he or she has become dependent, and this hurts everyone!!!!
Two Key DAS and Small Cell Installation Imperatives
- Acceleration of the Project Execution
- Comprehensive Visibility of all local RF spectrum utilization
Spectrum Analyzers – The Critical Tool Commonly Missing In Action
Spectrum analyzers are one of the most critical tools used to discover frequency and interference issues during deployment, for troubleshooting and for maintenance of DAS and small cell systems. They assist installers in meeting the project design objectives. As one of the first tools on the site for early walk-tests spectrum analyzers are continually employed throughout the project; from creating the RF baseline of the existing macro coverage to comparing the final results to the initial draft design of the DAS or small cell plan to retesting an ever-changing frequency band environment. For small cell installations, a highly functional user-friendly spectrum analyzer can make the difference between making money and losing money on a tight installation budget. (See sidebar: Small Cells – Revolutionizing Offloading). Spectrum Analyzers also play a critical role in solving one of the greatest misconceptions of the licensed band, that there are no interference sources in the band. And that has been proven wrong again and again, with the presence of both intentional and unintentional radiators that impact the performance of the networks. These sources can be a hidden threat as common as a light bulb, or as vicious as a RF jammer that can be purchased on the internet.
System integrators have also traditionally been at a disadvantage when it comes to testing and troubleshooting for interference issues by the multitude of wireless networks. The one-tool integrators agree upon as being a vital component to a successful deployment is too often missing in action. The high cost of older test equipment limits their availability to an organization’s resources. They are shipped from installation to installation, from region to region, resulting in compromised productivity and poor project efficiency. They are frequently on the wrong project in another location or in transit when they are most needed here and now. The disadvantage of not having test equipment readily available results in missed opportunities to discover the root cause of problems, unnecessary delays and prolongs final implementation.
Even when installers are able to get their hands on an older spectrum analyzer it will not meet today’s technology standards. Complicated to use, field techs often have no idea what the spectrum analyzer is showing them. The older devices require more skilled technicians that can negatively impact an organization’s budget for senior level engineers. The user interfaces are antiquated and do not provide the detailed visibility required by the highly complex wireless systems running 3G and 4G broadband services on overloaded networks.
If these deficiencies aren’t enough to drive a project manager to despair, the legacy spectrum analyzers are lacking in the ability to provide the installation team with optimum visibility of all the necessary data required for a smooth install at a particular location. They are incapable of being set up for location-specific configurations to prevent manual paper-pen or call-a-friend methods to figure out the mobile operator and frequency combination at a particular location. And when they do capture the important data, it is frequently batched and delivered at a later date requiring return trips to “fix” the problem. They also cannot drive to the root cause of the interference issues impacting network performance. In short, older “portable” spectrum analyzers just do not get to the root causes of diminished network performance.
AirMagnet Spectrum ES – For Every Stage of the Project Lifecycle
The new AirMagnet Spectrum ES from NetScout provides system integrators and professional service teams with a highly functional test and troubleshooting tool for every stage of the project lifecycle. The operative phrase: at every stage. This includes using it for the initial RF benchmarking, creation of the draft DAS network design, installation and commissioning, post-deployment validation and ongoing troubleshooting and maintenance.
Designed from the ground up the AirMagnet Spectrum ES accentuates project execution and provides the enhanced visibility previously unattainable. This agile spectrum analyzer tool comes in a truly portable and affordable form factor. The AirMagnet Spectrum ES is designed to be easy to use by a broader number of technicians and engineers. It’s intuitive user interface and application flow lowers the learning curve and accelerates the project. The AirMagnet Spectrum ES identifies problems early in the project lifecycle and throughout all phases of installation and implementation. This spectrum analyzer was created to be a permanent tool in every installer’s kit. Offering users multiple band information from 698 MHz to 2690 MHz, it is meant to be on the project site from day one providing the installation team with an easy to use, powerful tool to keep the project on track and meet specs and deadlines.
The driver behind the AirMagnet Spectrum ES is the successful model of “a PC on every desk” and how available computing technology radically increased workers’ productivity. It is small, inexpensive and driven by NETSCOUT's extensive expertise in RF troubleshooting technology.
The fully functional AirMagnet Spectrum ES, priced far below its traditional competitors, allows for pre-testing and ongoing testing in venues with highly fluctuating network traffic. Seasonal, day part and special event variances can now be accommodated exactly when needed and cost effectively throughout the project lifecycle and beyond.
AirMagnet ES Highlights
AirMagnet ES provides technicians and engineers with a comprehensive set of core spectrum analytics in a clear and easy to read user interface. One screen quickly identifies the Real-time FFT with current, maximum, maximum hold and average RF energy levels; Spectrogram showing amplitude, frequency and time simultaneously that may show energy spikes causing problems; Spectrum Density for long-term network analysis that assists in identification of infrequent transmitters; and Frequency Duty Cycle to identify potential constant transmissions in the band.
Location Specific Configurations
One of the unique benefits of the AirMagnet Spectrum ES is the embedded and updated frequency and technology data for operators in more than 30 countries. It automates frequency/technology lookup for operators worldwide to reduce time and effort required to look up the correct frequency ranges at a particular location and helps eliminate traditional and error-prone paper-pen based methods.The field technician creates a profile based on the operator or technology and the entire application tunes itself to the appropriate frequency range. For US users, AirMagnet provides continually updated live FCC carrier frequency and technology overlays for the most accurate information.
Zero-Day Root Cause Analysis for Interference problems
AirMagnet Spectrum ES offers the industry’s only real-time detection and identification of such interference sources that lower the perfor¬mance of these licensed networks. Users are powered with a default classification database that can automatically detect and classify interference sources such as RF jammers and CW transmitters. Once classified, users have detailed information about the source including the frequencies it impacts, peak/average power levels and the status of the source.
Also users who own RF spectrum analyzers usually have to depend on the vendor to create default signatures or classifications for the detection and identification of RF interference sources. Timely response to these sources is critical to carrier-grade or other networks to ensure the optimum performance for their users. Spectrum analyzer vendors themselves, struggle to keep up with the creation and inclusion of every unique RF interference source within their native classification database that can cause havoc on the network. To overcome this hurdle and provide users with a “zero-day” response to any RF interference source, AirMagnet Spectrum ES allows users to create custom signatures for any interference source that can impact the performance of the network.
With AirMagnet Spectrum ES’s built-in “device locator tool”, users can physically locate any interference source operating in the RF environment. The device locator tool operates as a Geiger counter and beeps louder as users get closer to the location of the device.
Antenna performance verification using the power Meter Tool
One of the most important tests conducted for a DAS network, is the verification of the antenna performance, i.e. if the antenna is working as expected or not. There are 2 ways of doing that: 1) performing a one-meter RF test and measuring the power of each antenna from the FFT graph by standing below the antenna or 2) using a power meter tool.
Users can physically connect the AirMagnet Spectrum ES adapter directly to an antenna system and then use the built-in Power Meter tool to perform the power measurements for the antennas. Users specify the frequency range and channel bandwidth options, and then quickly measure the power readings (current, max or max-hold) for the antennas.
AirMagnet Spectrum ES provides a variety of benefits for organizations looking to maximize their network performance, while at the same time helps them optimize their investment in test and measurement tools.
AirMagnet ES Field Case Studies
One system integrator who has recently started using the AirMagnet Spectrum ES for his company’s installations says he really didn’t know he needed it, until he used all its embedded functions. “It provides macular data,” he says. His old equipment provided one layer of relevant data. The AirMagnet Spectrum ES offers a second, more detailed layer. He adds, “I now have tools that will mitigate any issues.” His experience has shown him customers are sometimes reactive. “They just want a bunch of 3G and 4G antennas. It’s much more complicated than that.” He describes one project where he was told to work with a 20Mhz-sliding window within a 60MHz band. Using the AirMagnet Spectrum ES he was able to convincingly demonstrate how much interference other operators were creating in the local RF environment. Based on the data he provided the customer accepted an upgraded system that would deliver the level of service required.
A project manager who recently used the AirMagnet Spectrum ES appreciates its versatility. He says, “Compared to my old spectrum analyzer this is much quicker and easy to use.” He notes the AirMagnet Spectrum ES displays data on one screen. His old device took four screens and a lot of switching back and forth from screen to screen and could take 30 to 60 minutes to accomplish the same task.
The AirMagnet Spectrum ES from NetScout provides system integrators and installers with the most efficient and fully functional spectrum analyzer available to meet today’s RF challenges.
The End of Finger Pointing Standoffs
Integrators find they must constantly prove their proficiency and expertise in design and deployment of IBW to the operators. Too frequently a trouble issue turns into a lot of finger pointing that can go on for weeks without resolution.
You may have experienced an incident similar to one recently confronting a system integrator who requested his name not be used. His company was hired to upgrade a network operator’s DAS solution that had been installed previously by another contactor. The project hit a wall. The system was not performing properly. The operator and the original contractor were called in to participate in the resolution. The operator’s network team claimed their equipment was performing well. The original installer said their equipment and installation was done to specifications and was working as planned. All three stakeholders claimed the problem was not on their end. It was a frustrating and losing standoff for all.
The problem was finally resolved when the upgrade project integrator applied an AirMagnet Spectrum ES to troubleshoot the dysfunctional system. Within minutes the AirMagnet Spectrum ES discovered the root cause and clearly demonstrated to all stakeholders an improperly tuned host cell was responsible. The results: The original contractor was embarrassed, the operator surprised it was on their end and the systems integrator came out looking great because the AirMagnet Spectrum ES was able to quickly identify the longstanding problem so it could be fixed.
AirMagnet ES Meets Today’s DAS Installation Challenges
- Easy on the budget, allowing organization – wide deployment to accelerate project execution
- Lightweight and Truly Mobile
- Intuitive user flow lowers learning curve
Provides Zero-Day Interference Data –
Identify, classify and locate any interference source
Automated location-specific carrier and technology lookups –
Eliminate traditional error-prone & slow manual methods
Fast and accurate visualization –
Carriers and technologies frequency ranges
Eliminates manual and time-consuming referrals
Data/voice events and duty cycle
Understand band utilization