In-building solutions (IBS) are telecom solutions that are used to extend and distribute the cellular signals of mobile operators within a building. Such solutions offer high quality mobile communication in indoor environments such as of­fi­ces, shopping malls, hospitals, stadiums and airports. Owing to these advantages, IBS has gained significant traction in re­cent times as most of the day-to-day data consumption takes place indoors.

IBS provides indoor coverage using a series of hubs/equipment, distributing the signal to a number of antennas. These so­lu­tions give additional leverage to stren­g­then the quality of wireless signals, hence assuring smooth wireless communication for personal digital assistance (PDA), laptops and mobile phones. The fundamental philosophy of IBS is to automate architectures that are mainly driven around cloudification, softwarisation, virtualisation and fiberisation.

Technology pillars of IBS networks          

The 5Ss, that is, silicon, software, systems, standards and spectrum are aligned to deliver the network capacity required for IBS. In order to support the complex indoor internet requirement at places such as hotels, hospitals, stadiums and airports, access networks are required. As such, 5G long term evolution (LTE), Wi-Fi 6 networks and IBS will co-exist to deliver a WiGig-era of access at such places.

Moreover, cloud technology enables small cells to be connected through the hub to form an on-premises data centre or an on-premises cloud architecture-based data centre capable of hosting applications and core networks in multi-edge computing mode. With such an architecture in pl­ace, the core network would be directed to the in-building premises itself rather than the traffic being redirected to the centralised core. In addition, the solution will be complemented by a wireline component, which is a software defined access network (SDAN) and software defined wide area network (SDWAN). The rou­ters, switches and cybersecurity firewall that were used as appliances on the pre­mi­ses of buildings would serve as a software defined element with the implementation of IBS technology. Besides, new-age technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are important technology pillars for the IBS network as AI and ML help in managing the consumption capacity.

Features and use cases

IBS offers a high-speed user network and is designed and dimensioned for the next digital decade with the next-generation tech­nology of wireless, satellite, optical and internet protocol (IP), capable of off­ering 10 Gbps to 100 Gbps to every end office and 100 Mbps to 1 Gbps to end-us­ers (air/optical interface). It is self-configurable, self-healing and self-optimisable, and is highly reliable with reference to net­work provisioning, bandwidth handling and maintenance. IBS serves multiple purposes. It helps in digital service delivery by facilitating the formation of various linkages between the government and citizens, the government and busines­ses, and among different government de­part­ments. Additionally, IBS offers a gigabit access network realised through a fully capable intra/inter-building radio access network (RAN) infra connectivity using small cells and Wi-Fi 6 to provide high-speed connectivity.

Smart connected schools, smart traffic management, smart surveillance, e-health, intranet and extranet services all involve the use of IBS to a great extent. IBS can be used as an agile next-generation operations support system while assisting in AI/ML-led cybersecurity networks. It offers secured communications with en­crypted file transfers, IP-enabled audio-video broadcasting and large capacity multi-party conferencing. Further, IBS is expected to be used for delivering services such as mission critical voice, video, group calls, alerts and talker identification, as well as first responder services in the form of public safety networks such as ambulance, police, fire protection, and other emergency services.

Challenges and the way forward

High bandwidth costs pose a major hurdle in the deployment of IBS networks in India. The country also lacks bandwidth availability in the basements of buildings. The cost at which the solution is expected to be de­li­vered by multi-tenant complex owners is high. Moreover, the business model in In­d­ia needs to be more lucrative for IBS pro­viders in order to encourage deployment.

Going forward, IBS networks are expected to be run by managed service pro­viders through a neutral host model. In times to come, IBS technology will support digital multi-service networks such as the internet of things, AR/VR and its related applications. Wi-Fi 6 is expected to be complemented by 60 GHz wireless local area network (LAN), which is poised to be the next-generation Wi-Fi. The 60 GHz wireless LAN will prove to be a significant driver for indoor consumption. Moreover, the densification of cell sites, Wi-Fi access points and indoor small cells is forecasted to drive the evolution of IBS. s

Based on a presentation by C.S. Rao, Chairman and Co-Founder, Quadgen Wireless