Radio Access Networks design issues and solutions in Business Bay skyscrapers district, Dubai.

A booming Business Bay district in Dubai is being built as a commercial, residential and business cluster. The project features numerous skyscrapers. By the end of construction Business Bay will have upwards of 240 buildings with expected population of two to three hundred thousand in few years.

The infrastructure of Business Bay has been completed in 2008, and the entire development is expected to be completed in 2015. Covering an area of 5,900,000 m2, it will comprise office and residential towers set in landscaped gardens with a network of roads, pathways and canals. It will become the region's business capital as well as a freehold city. Commercial development will comprise 246,494.4 m2, which is 18.5 %, mixed use development will comprise 59.4 % and residential development will cover 22.1 % of the entire development.


This construction project is a good example to illustrate Radio Access Network owner’s problematic, tasks to solve or issues during initial radio network planning, and challenges upgrading existing one. The main goal for communication service provider is to ensure good quality service – high speed and reliable connection. Second objective is to make this fast as possible to gain the vast majority of customers in the area. This means to offer good communication services before your competitors did this.

Building initial network in a district like Business Bay, with a lot of skyscrapers and population of 300 thousands is an issue itself. First, high buildings complicate the propagation of good connection.  Second, high population density will accumulate significant amount of mobile data traffic volumes – this causes network capacity issues. Finally, a proper network design involves both commercial and technical factors. Time and budget limits your possibilities and define network technical aspects, but professional network planning and optimal equipment assignment can win a fortune.

To establish the best business case, communication service providers need to model, evaluate and compare different deployment scenarios. Main task for the network planner is to prepare good network project work out how many base stations to build, choose optimal equipment, define right parameters, combine different technologies and select the best possible place for network deployment. All that should be done in time within predefined budget. By using modern network planning software, RF engineers can design initial network using targeted planning mode, optimize existing network considering users behavior, compare different technology options and backhaul solutions in one project.

We can split new network planning process in to 4 main steps: design, deploy (manage engineering process), maintain (monitor how network meets market demands) and evolve (users behavior dictate us were and what changes me need to make).

Let’s illustrate one of the possible Radio access network design scenarios in Business Bay district in Dubai.

To design a good network you need a deep knowledge of the technology, right planning tools and precise environment data.  Key points in network design phase are signal level and capacity planning. But that’s not enough. To have strong signal, no interference and no capacity issues you have to know who are you planning for – your users/potential customers population, their density and especially needs. Nowadays mobile operators focus on quality of experience and try to offer services to improve customers’ experience. This is the reason operators wish to analyze potential customers and forecast traffic they will generate before building or expanding a network.

The wider network, the better subscribers experience – these are the goals we want to achieve. But at the same time, – every new base station costs time and money.  When you perform country scale network construction – building less base stations covering the same area makes a difference.

To evaluate traffic demand operators use different techniques. One of solutions is to predict network demands based on historical data, typical initial network design scenarios (assume equipment amount to serve the defined user number) and geographical data we have (particular location terrain and population distribution). Then find out how much it will cost us to serve this demand – equipment price, workforce services, deployment, maintenance, etc. We also calculate how much revenue we will get serving our users. Operators usually predict expenses (CAPEX, OPEX) and return of investment (ROI) before detailed and precise network planning, to see if the deployment itself is worth to start.

Cellular Expert software supports capabilities to prepare initial data for network modeling. Let’s make investigation of Business Bay district territory: particular location, master plan data, buildings, terrain, population and etc. The software allows you to put the data you have in one project, visualize and analyze this information.

  • First, estimate potential service demand in each building – identify customer points.

What we can do first is analyze terrain data (elevation) and building information. Building footprint will help us to assume potential service demand. Together with information about building height, construction year, purpose (residential, commercial, public, utilities etc.) is a base for population prediction.

We also can define individual calculation rules and process initial data in the way you need. Mapping technologies allows you to build your own prediction model and incorporate the date you actually operate.

The bigger the bubble the more customers we can expect there.

You can configure calculation rules to meet our preferred methodology - from market penetration to average demand per busy hour.

  • find out possible places for network equipment deployment - site candidate locations

We can use filtering and selection tools based on our criteria’s, to exclude the buildings that are not constructed yet or have restriction to build base stations on them (schools, hospitals, hotels).

  • select most suitable Sites using Site Matrix tool

Our goal is to reduce the amount of sites/sectors to minimal and found out where the best locations for sites deployment are. Cellular Expert algorithms covers as much points of subscribers as possible from as little as possible geographical locations for sites.  

This is one of possible planning scenario - analysis is based on signal level (power budget) calculation taking into account transmitter and receiver parameters, path loss prediction.
  • to find out how much equipment do we need – we need to place sites and predict network coverage

Cellular Expert allows to save typical base station equipment configuration as a template and use it as a basis to speed up design process.

Let’s calculate the strongest signal level (FS – field strength) and the signal source (BS – best server) and find out required amount of sectors in each site.

You can choose different criteria’s to define sector capabilities. This can be the amount of active SIM cards, maximum number of radio channels (capacity).  Define demand of sectors as a predicted traffic demand, required number of RF channels or as a number of required sectors.
  • tune antennas directions running optimization procedure – find the right direction and angle

Antennas should focus the signal into the area where our customers are. One of the ways to adjust directions of multiple sectors is to use Cellular Expert Multiple direction tool to automatically point sectors to the predicted cell areas. Individual sectors can be adjusted manually as well.  

If frequency planning is required by RAN technology, it can be done by evaluating signal overlapping from different sites and sectors.
  • define threshold levels for signal overlapping

Overlapping analysis results is a basic input for Automatic Frequency planning. You can also define additional conditions for channel release and assignment. Result is – optimal frequency plan with highest possible channel reuse.

  • Finally, you may run co-channel and adjacent channel interference prediction to assure, that there is no interference issues
The result is complete and detailed network project ready for further evaluation.

Next step usually is to calculate the payback of the designed network. The lifetime of network technologies is quite short, so operators should aim to minimize the payback and optimize services according to market demands.

Any decisions about infrastructure investment must also be weighed against their financial impact or benefit. The network should provide the right level of capacity and ensures reliability for access networks at the best possible cost.

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Cellular Expert Team