Originally published in Interiors & Sources

01/25/2013

How to Boost Cell Phone Coverage in Buildings

Assess the nature of your signal problem to develop a solution

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Occupant complaints about poor cell phone signal can be as nagging as cell phone ringtones. But dropped calls and spotty coverage don’t happen on a whim. They are signs that you should pump up the signal within your facility.

In-building wireless systems will help answer the call. The type of solution depends on the nature of the situation. Take these steps to find the right one.

Pinpoint the Problem
Poor coverage can be the result of several factors.

“When you get into densely packed buildings, very large facilities, or those that house a large number of people, then you should consider an in-building solution,” explains Chad Townes, VP of AT&T’s antenna solutions group.

Older types of construction using concrete, brick, and steel are notorious signal killers, which was part of the problem at Chicago’s Merchandise Mart.

“We have a 4.2 million-square-foot building that was built in the 1930s,” says Will Wong, the Merchandise Mart’s IT director. “Cell phone towers simply cannot penetrate into our building.”

The Merchandise Mart is the cocktail of coverage conundrums, because in addition to its size and old construction, it accommodates over 30,000 people every day, with occupancy reaching over 50,000 during tradeshows.

“People do business on cell phones. They make transactions, do research, and send and receive email,” Wong explains. “About two years ago, I started hearing rumblings about demand for better cell phone signals within the building.”

Is cell phone coverage in your building spotty? Finding a solution requires reaching out to manufacturers, wireless solution providers, and the major carriers. “There are a couple routes you can take,” Wong says.


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