September 30, 2020

Taking a different look at in-building communications

Recently, there have been two such sayings that struck a chord with us and made us look again, with a slightly more questioning eye...

Alec Wang, VP Mobile Site Solutions Business Unit

Mothers are full of sayings; don't put your eggs all in one basket, times have changed, it wasn’t like that in my day, and typically there is a kernel of truth at the core. Recently, there have been two such sayings that struck a chord with us and made us look again, with a slightly more questioning eye: 

  • They don’t make things like they used to
  • Health and Safety’s gone mad 

And, being RF specialists we, of course, had in-building communications in mind. 

They don’t make things like they used to

The speed of technological evolution has had a huge part to play in the diminishing life span of a vast number of products. So yes, if you are building technology to address the needs of today then absolutely it won’t last as long as it used to, because technology simply moves at a much faster pace. 

This is where we like to look at things differently, because we have just hit the core of the problem squarely on the head – “building technology to address the needs of today”. Network operators are being continuously forced to keep upgrading their networks which usually involves the rip and replace of a significant amount of equipment, minimizing the potential ROI.  

So now as we face 5G, does this mean gritting teeth for yet another swap out? Or if we’re implementing an earlier version of LTE, installing equipment knowing full well that its successor is already named and ready to eat into operator budgets?

This conundrum, which plagues operators constantly is at the forefront of the minds of our R&D teams, and always has been. We don’t design products for today’s technology needs, we anticipate the way communication standards will evolve and design products to evolve with them.

Preparing for the future

Take RFS’s radiating cables which provide in-building and in-tunnel coverage. They are the only radiating cables in the world that are truly RF wideband and that work across all LTE frequency bands up to 3.8GHz. 

They can do this because of certain mode suppressing technology that is patented by RFS. This means the radiating cable can be installed today and when the upgrade is needed, it is ready to adapt to next generation systems. 

Additionally, a key feature of next generation networks will be the need for MIMO and we are leading the way when it comes to installing this technology in buildings and tunnels. A patented approach allows the two signals (polarizations) to be equal in magnitude over the full length of the cable run – this is an absolutely critical element of MIMO installations. The rest of the market takes a different approach, and although this does work, it does not offer the same balance of polarization. The result is that they simply cannot match the quality of coverage and the achievable data throughput for maximum capacity.

The unique cables we are installing now, are not only built to last as a result of the quality of their manufacturing. They are made for today but designed for the communication standards of tomorrow. So no, we don’t make things like they used to; we make them better. 

Health and Safety’s gone mad

So on to our second maxim; has health and safety gone mad? Health and Safety has evolved to a point where companies can’t sell anything that is actively dangerous – products don’t overheat or cut your hands – and this is, by and large, a positive thing. So, in this respect, health and safety is still in possession of all its faculties. However, when it comes to product safety, not all “safe” products are created equal.

Safety, in the context above is a given with all RFS products. All our products are well engineered and made. But safety has to be considered over the entire lifetime of the product and built to endure any eventuality. This is no more pertinent than when we think about our in-building or tunnel solutions and how they perform if the worst happens.

Fires in buildings and tunnels are a grim but real possibility and communication equipment has to be up to the task in this emergency situation. Communication is critical for ensuring the safety of both emergency responders and those inside and so being able to definitively say that infrastructure will continue to perform in extreme environments is essential.

RFS has thought about protecting life in such an event and developed our Dragonskin cables which are best in class when it comes to fire safety. They not only resist extreme temperatures, but when exposed to fire, they do not produce toxic smoke. They are also the only option available that can deliver this in a stand-alone product. There is no need for conduit, simplifying procurement, streamlining installation and making it far easier ensure that whatever happens, communication isn’t compromised. Far from health and safety gone mad, it’s safety that is absolute common sense.

Usually there isn’t much to be gained by reading too much into maxims that our elders hand out like sweets. However, whether we see that kernel of truth, or a statement that jars with us, there is value in the way it causes us to think differently. Not all of this different thinking at RFS is sparked by things our mothers used to say, but we are and always have been committed to exploring different angles. Our innovation labs, the experience of our teams, and our customer driven approach ensure we develop unique products that are the best in class for the problems we are looking to solve. So, whatever it is that causes prompts unconventional way of looking at a problem, it can only ever be a good thing for driving the innovation that we and our customers value.