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Designing good cellular reception in challenging environments

When Summerset’s development at St Johns in Auckland faced challenges in delivering quality cellular signals throughout all areas of the village Torque IP was there to help.

For Summerset providing consistent, always available mobile phone coverage throughout its villages is essential.

“We aim to provide resort-style facilities in modern, welcoming communities and having good mobile phone coverage is a crucial part of modern life for our residents,” says Dean Tallentire, General Manager of Construction at Summerset. “It is also an essential resource for our staff and an important health and safety requirement. So we need a solution that can guarantee good service, throughout the entire village, at full occupancy.”

When Summerset’s latest metro development at St Johns in Auckland faced challenges in delivering quality cellular signals throughout all areas of the village (seven multi-level buildings) Torque IP was there to help. 

“Radio Frequency (RF) signal reception in such an environment can be affected by many things including (but not limited to) construction materials such as concrete, steel, Low E double glazing and some claddings that limit signal penetration,” says Torque IP building technologies consultant Jason Terry. “Plus we have to account for the high volume of resident and staff devices placing considerable demand on the mobile networks. The St Johns development is also making extensive use of Korok fire and acoustic wall panelling to create a safe and ambient environment for the residents, which does create some additional challenges when it came to RF signal penetration.”

A full Distributed Antenna System (DAS) solution was the answer as it did not rely on the amplification of an existing signal. 

“Instead the carriers’ signal is brought in from the street via optical fibre to a DAS room where each of the three main providers, Spark, One NZ and 2Degrees, install their own equipment,” explains Jason. “The signal is then distributed via cable throughout the village to antennas that broadcast throughout the interior of the buildings”.

Torque IP Client Manager Mike Stacey says Summerset’s challenge at St Johns is not uncommon in many new modern buildings and that developers are best to plan for good cellular signal coverage early, as retrofitting a solution is very difficult and very expensive. 

“For Summerset, installing this DAS is about a quality experience for Summerset residents and staff” says Mike. “That is how developers need to think about RF reception these days. Just as they plan for the delivery of other vital infrastructure and services in a building like plumbing, lighting and air conditioning, they must now consider the quality of the cellular coverage within their buildings. They can’t afford to leave the quality of signal reception to chance.”

“I mean, just ask yourself – would you move into a new apartment or off­ice building where your cell phone doesn’t work?"

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