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Cities are getting smarter and our lives are becoming more connected. At the same time as we come to expect anytime, anywhere access to broadband, there is a growing demand to connect more things. If we believe the hype, the internet of things (IoT) will see M2M traffic increase exponentially over the next decade, with predictions of 30 billion connected devices by 2025. But while the IoT and smart cities represent a major opportunity for mobile operators and network infrastructure vendors, there are also many challenges ahead.

Several governments are already trialing smart city concepts. For example, developments in Singapore are underway with sensors to detect cleanliness, while in London, traffic data is being used to try and curb congestion and provide solutions to ease traffic flow.

While the impact of smart cities and the IoT on existing radio access networks (RANs) and core backhaul is not clear, it is agreed that new networks will need to be deployed and the current infrastructure densified, expanded and optimized to deliver seamless connectivity both indoors and outdoors.  Today, over 80% of data traffic is consumed indoors.

One way that smart city planners and developers are addressing these coverage and capacity requirements is through a HetNet model with multiple layers, including small cell, DAS and WiFi technologies. But to make sure all these networks integrate seamlessly and do not cause interference with macro cells, a new generation of radio planning and optimization tools is required.

New York, New York
It is not surprising that New York is keen to become one of the world's smartest cities and has recently committed to delivering free anytime, anywhere WiFi access across the whole of the city. The network will provide free connectivity for NYC residents, workers and visitors, but also put in place the vital infrastructure to turn New York into a truly smart connected city.

Recognizing the challenges of a public WiFi network over the dense metropolitan area, the New York Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (NYCdoITT) enlisted the help of Ranplan's indoor and outdoor radio planning tool, iBuildNet, to maximize network coverage and capacity.

The project aims to maximize street coverage using the least number of WiFi Access Points (APs), while minimizing overlap with existing incumbent commercial WiFi providers such as AT&T and COX Cable. 

Prior to using iBuildNet, New York had deployed 80 APs on existing phone boxes. The lack of RF planning meant that in some cases two APs could be across the street from each other or a few blocks away, resulting in wasted capacity in some areas and coverage holes in others. By using iBuildNet, it is possible to visualize the existing AP network and simulate and plan where to locate other APs to maximize coverage and throughput, account for changes in capacity needs and reduce interference.

Ranplan's iBuildNet is an all-in-one, heterogeneous network planning, optimization and simulation solution for small cell, DAS and WiFi networks, across indoor and outdoor environments. It uses advanced 3D modelling and fast and accurate 3D ray-tracing, along with powerful data algorithms and analysis to model the city and then automatically optimize the choice of AP location, antenna type, power and channel assignment.

"New York's pioneering work using advanced indoor and outdoor network planning on a city-wide scale, sets a precedent for delivering ubiquitous connectivity over large metropolitan environments and enabling major cities to achieve their smart city ambitions," said Alastair Williamson, CEO at Ranplan. "The success of any wireless network depends on the quality of the actual physical RAN. The frequencies and technologies are less important if supported by the planning tool and the main goal of network design is to meet coverage and capacity objectives while minimizing interference and cost."


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