Indoor coverage, 5G and Private Mobile Communications: Takeaways from the N-sight of 13/03/2018


We all feel the need for fast, reliable connection, wherever we are. And this need is only getting stronger as we become ever-more dependent on ever-more devices. In this N-sight, we started with the ongoing requirement for better indoor coverage for mobile communications, and the challenges of multi-operator solutions. Then we gazed in the crystal ball at the plans for 5G in Belgium. Finally, we had a lively discussion on the rather controversial topic of Private Mobile Communications, and also heard from the audience about what they expect from Beltug regarding the topic of indoor coverage.


Presentations from the event are available, exclusively for Beltug members (after login):

In addition, BIPT, ORI, the mobile operators, Beltug and the Confederatie Bouw/Techlink worked together to improve cooperation for MO-DAS. You can find out more (in Dutch and French).


Multi-operator DAS


Jan Bosschem, CEO at ORI started us off with an overview of the growing challenges the construction sector faces:

  • a shortage of engineers and technicians
  • the transition to a carbon-low society, impacting mobility, energy and construction
  • digitisation, big data and artificial intelligence.


When talking about Indoor Coverage, current building and isolation standards are resulting in buildings that are increasingly difficult for mobile signals to penetrate. For large buildings, a DAS (distributed antenna system) can be a solution when coverage for multiple operators is required.  When ASTRID coverage is necessary, it can be included in the DAS, however, this is a separate and different challenge.


Jan continued with a call and decision model for multi-operator DAS solutions to be included right in building designs.  During the building’s design stage, should MO-DAS appear advisable, there are a few procedures to follow to indicate this in a 'call for interest' towards the operators (see slides 19-23) and the BIPT document linked above .


Unfortunately, most of the investment and maintenance costs will fall on the client – and they can be very high! However, there may be ways to negotiate, depending on the situation.



Recommendations for indoor coverage contracts


Peter Bockstaele, Afdelingshoofd Technisch Beheer at the Flemish Government, then gave us an overview of the Flemish Government’s recent Indoor Coverage project.  Very quickly, at the start of the project, the administration realised a multi-operator solution could bring a win-win result, and engaged in discussions with AG Real Estate, the owner of the building.  Peter gave us some things to take into consideration in such 'owner-tenant' conversations (see slide 7).


This project turned out to be a 'three-party contract' (tenant, proprietor and operator).  Important issues to cover in the contract included:

  • Permission
  • Definition of rights
  • Preparation of the installation
  • Access
  • The end of the lease?
  • Repair of any damage caused by removal
  • Liability.


Judit Karlsson, lawyer at Crosslaw and specialist in real estate law, went deeper into these topics (slides 15 to 17). The resulting three-party contract includes liability clauses directly between the tenant (the Flemish Government) and the operator. It also includes long notice requirements for the operators, especially when continuity of the coverage service is key to the (public) service.


In the final stage, the Flemish Government began negotiations with the candidate operators. In total, the preparations and negotiations took 18 months.


Real-life cases and experiences


To round off the topic of Indoor Coverage, we heard the stories of two hospital: AZ Zeno (in Knokke) and Ziekenhuis Maas en Kempen (in Maaseik), which are both customers of Beltug partner Securitas.  Both hospitals also have full indoor coverage and ASTRID coverage. William Vaes, business manager at Network Consulting, developed the entire network infrastructure in both hospitals.


Hospitals' demands for indoor coverage are high: full Wi-Fi is not sufficient. Doctors, for instance, require full cellular coverage as well. On top of that, if a mobile device switches between indoor and outdoor signals, connection performance is affected.  It's better to keep the outdoor signal completely out, and have devices fully connected to the indoor network.


To ensure good mobile coverage, it's not necessary to use a nearby cell tower as a signal source: the wireless carrier can provide a base station generating RF signals on the premises.  This base station is connected to the mobile network via a high-speed fibre optic connection. When choosing your ideal configuration, active, passive and hybrid DAS have their advantages and disadvantages, William shared (see slide 15).


The conclusions for the two hospitals were:

  • Be aware of the indoor coverage issues, or you will have a problem
  • Make sure you have experts to give you advice
  • Keep an eye on current and future technologies and their long-term viability
  • Coming to a proper solution takes time.


5G auctions in Belgium 


Our final presentation was by Michael Vandroogenbroek, Strategic Cell Scarce Resources, Spectrum Management at BIPT-IBPT.  He shared BIPT’s vision on 5G and its regulatory framework.  He gave an overview of the current technologies (see slide 5): our spectrum is used for all kinds of different bandwidths and applications, e.g. 2G on 900 and 1800 MHz; 4G on 800, 1800 and 2600 MHz. M2M and IoT networks are currently mostly based on 2G networks or on unlicensed Sigfox and LoRa bands. But these will soon evolve to newer technologies such as EC-GSM-IoT, LTE-MTC and NB-IoT.


The 5G band is using the 700 and 3600 MHz bands, and the 26 GHz band.  On the technical level, there are still challenges before the full roll out (slides 16-18).


In 2019, five standalone auctions will be held:

  • Renewal of the 2G and 3G licences.
  • The 700 MHz band
  • The 3600 MHz band (the primary for 5G)
  • The remaining spectrum of the 2100 MHz band
  • The remaining spectrum of the 2600 MHz band


The 1400 MHz band and the 26 GHz band will also be the subjects of future auctions.


Private Mobile Communication: a dynamic discussion 


Alain Van den Broeck from Securitas started off the roundtable discussion with a call for spectrum for Private Mobile Communications, which is currently not permitted in Belgium. Proponents of enabling these private networks highlight that they could provide many innovation opportunities for organisations and companies.


While the Netherlands does allow PMC, during the interactive and very dynamic discussion there was no consensus of whether we need it for Belgium, nor of whether Beltug should plead for it. However, Beltug welcomes input and opinions on the topic, on either side of the issue.











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