Urban canyon antennas need to be beautiful

A recent webinar looking at network densification has given us food for thought, raising a number of challenges that are only becoming more problematic as we increasingly embrace a constantly attached world.

RCR Wireless’ Network Densification – Turning Urban Canyons into Wireless Oases last week discussed the need for more network coverage and capacity being driven by the growing demand for data and connectivity.

Improving coverage

As technology leaps forward, the amount of data required to meet the insatiable demand somehow must be met. Autonomous vehicles, the internet of things and 5G are on our doorstep, and the challenge for the wireless industry is providing the right infrastructure to solve the demand, but more importantly allow for profitable growth.

“We’ve all been there – you’re using Google Maps to get to a meeting in an unfamiliar central business district or metropolitan downtown. You turn a corner and, all of a sudden, a high-rise blocks the signal and you’re steps away from lost and late. Welcome to an urban canyon,” RCR Wireless’ webinar told us.

That is an unbelievably recognisable scenario, and without a doubt, improving coverage is a major issue for the sector – the question is ‘how?’.

The problem

Solving the operators challenge of increasing coverage and capacity at the same time while meeting municipalities’ requests to preserve the landscape of communities are competing requirements.

“People don’t want a ‘junk yard’ of equipment (power/backhaul/radio/antenna) in their ‘back-yard’ at the expense of good mobile, broadband coverage,” said Tim Sill VP Technology and Business Development Alpha Wireless. So, to make progress, antenna providers need to make aesthetics a priority.

Solution providers need to think low visual impact. They need to think discreet. They need to think outside the box. They need to think about solutions that would be acceptable for them.

“Careful consideration of transport and radio network planning and investment can turn an urban canyon into a wireless oasis,” the webinar told us. And we agree.

The Alpha Wireless way

For a number of years, Alpha Wireless has been putting a key focus on aesthetics – #visuallyambient #lowvisualimpact have become tags that define us. Our concern is with changing the way the wireless networks are built. We want people to know that providing great coverage and capacity doesn’t have to come down to ugly antennas that are a blight on the landscape.

“We’ve listened to operators and municipalities. Through their feedback, Alpha Wireless applied an operator’s mindset to come up with a market-leading, aesthetically pleasing small cell solution: the Concealed Antenna Node (CAN)” elaborated Tim.

The ultimate all-in-one product, the CAN integrates the radio, backhaul options, GPS, cables, and any required power protection and distribution into a single enclosure. For urban areas where space is at a premium, this is now the go-to antenna solution.

Taking subtlety, a step further, we produced the Rooftop Concealed Antenna Node (rCAN) – invisible to pedestrians at street level.

The speed-to-market and cost savings are significant with the CAN and rCAN solutions. There is a 54% reduction in cost compared to traditional deployments, a 74% reduction in labour costs and greater than 50% reduction in installation time – the rCAN installation process takes just two hours while the CAN less than 4 hours.

Just like the wireless industry, Alpha Wireless moves fast, so we haven’t stopped there. Within a year of the original CAN’s release, we launched a next generation version, reducing the size even further while improving spectrum options.

The takeaway

Innovation was a key message we took from the RCR Wireless webinar. It’s not enough to provide solutions for network densification that provide the necessary coverage, those solutions must be visually appealing and cost effective to deploy.

The wireless industry must now constantly be thinking better, not bigger!