Consumers expect their wireless devices to work wherever they are, which means indoor wireless networks are increasingly important to ensure connectivity both outdoors and inside homes and offices as well as shopping malls, arenas and other public places.

Mobile data traffic on cellular networks is skyrocketing and data usage is expected to continue to increase for the foreseeable future. Service providers are looking for ways to relieve congestion from data traffic by moving some of it onto local, in-building networks while maintaining the quality customers expect from the overarching cellular network. Today, customers experience this while connecting to Wi-Fi hotspots when they enter a business or other establishment. In some cases, wireless operators have installed Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) or small cells to move traffic off the macrocellular network and onto their DAS or small-cell networks.

Building owners also have a vested interest in ensuring quality indoor wireless coverage for their tenants and those who visit their buildings. Reliable indoor coverage can help attract residential and business tenants to a facility at more attractive rents, provide a platform for building owners to automate operational processes, and ensure public-safety communications requirements are met.

While indoor connectivity is taking the shape of a new essential utility for most buildings, it isn’t always considered during initial architectural drawings, or early on in the process for designing new buildings. In fact, some other building designs, like low-emission glass and building material choices like aluminum, hinder RF transmission, necessitating the need for in-building connectivity to be brought into the venue. Further, established buildings also may suffer from poor in-building connectivity, resulting in them being less desirable when trying to rent to tenants or enabling employees’ productivity.

Much of the cost of deploying in-building cellular coverage can be defrayed by including plans for cellular connectivity into the process early on in the design stage for new buildings or during planned renovations to an existing building. It is easier to run necessary fiber, antennas and other equipment when ceilings, floors and walls are exposed. In existing buildings, adding wireless infrastructure should be included during remodeling efforts or as stand-alone service. Designers who think ahead about the venue’s cellular and public-safety connectivity needs can plan ahead accordingly to make the process less costly.

Many factors influence how in-building networks are designed and optimized within buildings, including availability of fiber, cabling pathways, physical space to house equipment, building aesthetics, carrier approvals, power requirements, ongoing maintenance needs, size of the building and traffic patterns within the structure. While each venue is unique, they generally have common design, approval and construction issues. Upfront preparation, thoughtful design and continued project support can save significant installation time, improve design efficiency and reduce costs even in the most difficult project environments.

The following list of considerations excerpted from WIA’s white paper “Planning for Mobile Broadband Connectivity at the Architectural Design Phase” should be part of the initial design process and followed during construction of the system.

“Planning for Mobile Broadband Connectivity at the Architectural Design Phase” was written by WIA’s Innovation & Technology Council. Visit WIA’s Resource Library for more informative white papers on topics ranging from Rural Broadband to 5G.