Designing a multi-operator network to provide indoor mobile coverage for a large single storey shopping centre.
Shopping centres provide communities with a central and convenient way to access multiple retailers under one roof. They are a hub for entertainment and eateries where people meet to socialise with friends and families.
Aside from providing ample and secure parking, clean facilities, and open spaces, one key requirement to augment the visitor experience in a brand new shopping mall is by providing good indoor mobile coverage. Whether people are walking around, sitting in public seating areas, in store or sat at a café, people expect to be connected so they can share their experience with family and friends, surf the net, or benefit from receiving instore promotions while onsite.
The Baltia shopping mall was opened in 2020 and is the largest mall in Kaliningrad city, Russia. With a 55,800sqm² surface area, it is home to 150 stores, 12 restaurants, a cinema, and is perfect for people to combine shopping with leisure, sports, and home.
The purpose of this network design comparison was to demonstrate that Maven Wireless’ hybrid active DAS system could achieve the same level of indoor coverage, incorporating 5G, but with fewer base stations.
From a 2D AutoCAD floorplan import illustrating steel walls to...
...a 3D model of the entire shopping mall
The Baltia Mall was the largest and most innovative new shopping centre to be developed in the region. The owners required a 2G, 3G and 4G network that could transmit signals on multiple frequencies to support voice and data services from four of the largest Russian mobile operators.
The shopping centre was built using a variety of materials – brick, concrete, glass, plasterboard, steel, and wood which are typically difficult to penetrate with RF signals. Glass was heavily used for atrium roofs, to provide patrons with natural daylight and additional interior ventilation. This created a challenge as antennas were not allowed to be installed on those ceilings.
Also innovative to this project was the extensive use of internal partition walls erected between adjoining retail outlets. These walls are insulated with glass mineral wool and covered either side by either a layer of lightweight steel. Their aim is to provide acoustic insulation between neighbouring shops and fire protection from fires occurring in adjacent areas. Their widespread use throughout also presented a challenge when simulating signal distribution because of the difficultly of RF signals penetrating the dense materials.
The purpose of this project was to design a cost effective passive DAS system with less capital equipment and still be capable of delivering reliable indoor coverage for an innovative shopping centre experience.
The owner of the mall commissioned Azymuth to design an efficient indoor network system to meet the needs of shoppers, mobile operators, and retailers.
Given the size, complexity and array of materials used in the project, Ranplan Professional was used to model the centre and design and optimise the network to meet indoor coverage KPIs. The first step involved using the Smart CAD Extract feature to import 2D AutoCAD files to visualise and inspect the building layout schematic. The mall was then modelled using the comprehensive 3D modelling features, attributing colours to materials from the material display settings for ease of identification.
Pre Ranplan ITO - RSRP - LTE 2600
Pre ITO - SINR - LTE 2600
A passive DAS system was designed to support each operator. It featured only two cells (instead of the normal four or five for this type of project), including one MIMO 2x2. Each cell was designed to provide coverage for one half of the mall (west to east).
Antennas were wall-mounted in the corridor in a zigzag formation. To avoid cross signal interference that could result in a poor connection experience for visitors, Ranplan’s Intelligent Topology Optimisation module was used to leverage an equal amount of power for each antenna so that each could transmit signals across multiple frequencies at equal strength. Some areas were exempt from antenna placements, such as IT, staff rooms and food halls to reduce signal interference.
Ranplan’s 3D vector based ray-tracing / launching propagation engine was used to run in-building wireless coverage calculations to predict signal power and coverage to determine performance outcome.
Heatmaps generated in Ranplan Professional prove that a passive DAS system featuring only two cells with antennas mounted on corridor walls in zig zag formation can deliver indoor coverage for a large shopping mall built using innovative materials and methods.
Ranplan’s Intelligent Technolgy Optimisation module helped to significantly reduce signal interference in the mall caused by the proximity of two large cells. Overall, target coverage of -95dBm was achieved at near 99%, indicating that visitors would have a good connectivity experience while in the mall.
Post ITO - RSRP - LTE 2600
Post ITO - SINR - LTE 2600
“Ranplan Professional was the tool of choice for this large, complex project involving new construction methods and materials. We were able to complete the project in less than 2 weeks and demonstrate how to meet required indoor coverage KPIs with significantly reduced CAPEX”.- Sergey Mikhnevich, Technical Expert, Azymuth
Passive DAS systems are the most common type of network installations in Russia due to the need to minimise capital expenditure. Through engineering creativity and the use of Ranplan Professional, this project has demonstrated that a cost-effective indoor network system could be effectively deployed inside an innovative architectural design environment, such as the Baltia Mall, without compromising on a visitor’s unique experience.