In-Building FirstNet – The 5 Year Plan and Public Safety Antennas

Mon, 12/09/2019 - 09:41

As we’ve discussed here previously, FirstNet is finally beginning to take shape after 15 years of proposal, planning, and development. 9,000 state and local first responder agencies have signed on with more on the way. We’re now two years into the 25-year contract awarded to AT&T to implement the network, and the numbers are climbing, with 750,000 public safety system and personnel connections in practice.

The network is growing and will only continue to grow as first responder organizations buy in and adopt the platform, upgrading their infrastructure for the safety network of the future. But the next five years are a critical time for that development. Announced in August of 2019, FirstNet released a roadmap that rolls through 2024 and will guide the expansion of FirstNet in six different domains:

  • Network Core – the infrastructure that supports all FirstNet implementations
  • Coverage and Capacity – expanding the reach and volume of users and installations
  • Situational Awareness – availability and access to important thread and hazard data
  • Voice Communications – high quality and reliable voice communication support
  • Secure Information Exchange – reliable and secured sharing of critical information in network
  • User Experience – frictionless usage of FirstNet resources that enables focus on the mission

The last four of these are heavily dependent on the first two. That is, a strong core and sufficient coverage / capacity are critical to enabling the specifics defined in the last four domains. Getting all six of these goals right will depend on a network which is scaled properly, provides full coverage, and can support the demands of emergency scenarios.

For this reason, FirstNet’s five year roadmap will be heavily dependent on deployment of quality antennas at the ground level in the places where FirstNet enables first responders – buildings, venues, public spaces, and locations where disasters put people at risk. So what are the requirements of in-building antenna installations, and how do they play into the full vision of a FirstNet-ready world?

Know Your Environment: RF Modeling with FirstNet Antennas

It’s important to remember that when installing in-building FirstNet antennas does not happen in a vacuum. We’ve mentioned before the dense and complicated RF environment that makes up responder vehicles, which requires careful planning and testing to succeed. But the same is true of very large and spacious environments: there is lots of signal to contend with, potentially tens of thousands of mobile devices, public Wi-Fi, and more.

These signal sources generate a lot of noise. A good FirstNet deployment has to cut through this, which means a quality antenna must provide high performance and signal quality. It’s critical to utilize RF modeling and testing for this reason, to be sure your antennas behave as expected under stress.

It’s a common misconception that this step is too expensive or time consuming, but the opposite is true. Careful modeling and testing can protect you from costly redesign time and adjustments late in your implementation.

Consider Interference – Low PIM is Critical for FirstNet

Passive intermodulation is a serious concern in cellular systems, and in the worst case scenario can cause complete signal degradation that destroys a cellular link. It occurs when two signals overlap and amplitude modulation happens, which can produce a new and disruptive signal in the same band. This elevates the noise floor and damages system performance, and it can originate in antenna elements, connectors, cable, and ground wires. It can be caused by damaged components, or even proximity to other metals, and ignoring PIM can put your system at serious risk.

In short, PIM can come from almost anywhere, so it’s important to seek out quality, low-PIM components that reduce the likelihood of damaging the connection. It’s not a given: many antenna solutions do little or nothing to address PIM, and it requires a skilled partner to assess the risk of PIM impact and to provide solutions that work against it.

A good antenna partner has the capability to measure and account for PIM in a system, as well as to manufacture solutions that work to minimize PIM in the systems as they’ll be implemented. This requires expertise and capabilities in RF testing, visualization, materials design, and product customization.

Laird Connectivity – Providing FirstNet Antennas and Valuable Expertise

Our multi-protocol in-building public safety antennas put together the greatest of our capabilities to create best-in-class FirstNet solutions. Our CFSA35606P and CMS38606 antennas are two new models specifically designed for in-building DAS installations.

The CFSA35606P is an ultra-low profile antenna that supports UHF, 4G LTE, 2G/3G cellular, UMTS/AWS-3, CBRS, and Wi-Fi. This multi-protocol solution is designed specifically for indoor coverage with low-PIM performance and is designed to be easily integrated with an aesthetically pleasing package.

The CMS38606 is similar but provides an enhanced omni-directional pattern with a dome-shape that can be used in conjunction with the CFSA35606P to provide wider and better coverage in the aforementioned frequency bands.

The CFSA69383P antennas are low PIM indoor wideband antennas designed to provide coverage for GSM, DCS, UMTS, QWS-3, and LTE/WiMAX bands. They're 700 MHz FirstNet ready and provide wide angle coverage in an extremely low profile form factor. 

Let Laird Connectivity help design your public safety installations to provide the best in performance, aesthetics, and reliability. Learn more about our public safety antennas.