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RF Network Design

Typically, in any RF network design process, the following major steps are required.

Site RF Installation
Verification
Evaluation Planning Commissioning

GSM Greenfield Deployment

Coverage & Capacity Objective


Based on each morphology (urban, sub-urban, quasi-open, etc.) coverage objective (in
absolute dBm Rx Lev & / or indoor or outdoor coverage) defined by the mobile service
operator / equipment provider, it has to be decided as to how many sites are required. A
few sample drive tests should be carried out in each of those areas so as to see the
propagation behavior in that region. This will also help to characterize the noise bed and
initial model tune the prediction tool for that particular region. Also, it would be imperative
to know which areas of the network should have capacity requirements (example
business district, malls, free ways, etc.) based on which decision on the number of
additional sites required for extra capacity is to be taken.

One very important factor with great impact on number of sites is available frequency
band. More spectrum means less sites for the same capacity.

Initial Design
A link budget calculation for each land-use is carried out which will determine the
average cell radius per site. After knowing the above facts, and also bearing in mind the
total number of sites that the mobile service provider is ready for the network, grid
planning has to be done on the prediction tool. Appropriate model is to be created on the
coverage prediction tool for this. The total desired area is divided in to the total number
of sites. To reduce the cost of network build, friendly site database (existing tower /
cellular sites, preferred sites, etc.) has to be incorporated in to the site database, which
will also help the site turn around faster. These sites are adjusted to the nearest grid and
to fill out the holes created or coverage overlapping because of this process, new sites
are added or removed.

Management Consent
A proposal is sent to the mobile service provider management with the information of
total number of sites to achieve the desired coverage & capacity. Modifications are done
in the initial design with the new site count as decided by the management. They are
also informed of any coverage hole or reduction in coverage area as a result of alteration
in the design due to the change in site count. After the above process, Search Area Ring
(SAR) is generated so as to acquire the sites in the region defined by the SAR.

RF Network Plan
The site candidates referred by site acquisition team for each SAR is site visited and
evaluated for the desired coverage. Continuous Wave (CW) test is done wherever
required especially on the golden routes which covers the main streets in that area or for
the cases where zoning requirements supersedes the RF engineering requirement. A
decision is taken as to approve or reject the candidate. Site Configuration Sheet is
prepared and distributed for each of the approved and acquired sites, which are then
taken under construction. After the construction is done, the equipment is installed and
commissioned. In the mean time, A-bis planning and transmission network planning is
done and T1 / T3 (or microwave) required is ordered / installed at the site. Also, a
frequency plan is generated with respect to the total RF bandwidth available and the
network is divided in to clusters of sites where the frequency plan is applied. The
frequency plan is made after consideration of future expansion plans.

BSIC plan is to be generated during the same time for these sites. While creating the
plan for frequency and BSIC, enough provision for future expansion is a must. Careful
consideration of various features for better usage of spectrum is required and detailed
cost analysis for using these features and service quality is carried out. For e.g. Usage
of Frequency Hopping gives good amount of interference elimination and tighter re-use
of frequency can be made to conserve the spectrum. Usage of other features like, BTS
and MS Power control and Up link and Down link DTX etc, should be considered as well.

Coverage Verification
A site inspection is carried out so as to verify the configuration / installation of the
equipment, transmission lines, connectors, antenna, etc. as per the site configuration
sheet. EIRP and antenna system performance is also verified, like VSWR, insertion loss,
radiation center height, antenna orientation and mechanical down tilt, if any. Time slot
testing for each TRX is must once the site is integrated in to the network along with the
handover test to the defined neighbors and a check for undefined neighbors is required
as well. After each site is integrated in the network, the coverage is to be verified with
the help of extensive drive tests. The results of drive tests are compared to those
predicted by the planning tool and also by the CW tests. Drive tests are done on all the
routes where CW tests were initially carried out. Any changes required to the network is
immediately informed, documented, carried out and verified. After the verification is done
and results found satisfactory, the client is submitted with the current coverage plots and
drive test data for verification and approval.

Vendor Swap Deployment

Benchmarking
It is very important to know the health and characteristics of the existing network to
quantify the improvements and deterioration done to the network due to swapping the
equipment. For this purpose, the KPI (Key Performance Indicator), if any, used by the
operator should be used, but not limited to it. This may include vital parameters for
interference (Rx Qual), coverage, blocking and preferably band scanned at all the sites.
OMC statistics shall be recorded and studied. Existing drive test plots are generated to
compare it with the coverage generated after the equipment swap. It is assumed that the
OMC/OSS/Switch data post processing tool (use to generate daily / weekly / monthly /
Yearly statistics for the performance verification and regular operation and maintenance
and optimization of the radio network) remains compatible to the new equipment
installed or a new tool be installed along with the new equipment. In order to continue
working on successful deployment of the new system and keep the existing engineers
working on present vendor comfortable on the new system’s performance.
Site Survey
A site survey is carried out in order to get an idea of what all equipment or facilities could
be used after swapping the equipment. Also, all the important things are logged as done
in a normal site walk for a new roll out. All the existing facilities that could be used shall
be informed to the concerned appropriately so as to order and install the remaining items
to run the site.

RF Network Plan
The existing site database is incorporated in the planning tool for predicting coverage.
Any constructional / power / structural changes to the existing candidates for changing
the equipment are to de documented and a template to be prepared for all such sites to
standardize the process in order to make it simple for the implementation team. The
coverage is verified and any coverage hole / overlapping of coverage be brought to the
notice of the client so that a decision on any additional site or removal of a redundant
site can be made. CW test is carried out wherever required. Document the changes
required to the new network. SAR is added or deleted as required. A decision is taken as
to approve or reject the candidate. Site Configuration Sheet is prepared and distributed
for each of the approved and acquired sites, which are then taken under construction. A
plot of estimated coverage of this initial design is taken and retained for record and
future comparison. After the construction is done, the equipment is installed and
commissioned. In the mean time, new A-bis plan and transmission network planning is
done if required. Existing fixed network facility is used unless more facilities are required.
Also, a frequency plan is generated with respect to the total RF bandwidth available and
the network is divided in to clusters of sites where the frequency plan is applied. The
frequency plan is made after consideration of future expansion plans.

Coverage Verification
A site inspection is carried out so as to verify the configuration / installation of the
equipment, transmission lines, connectors, antenna, etc. as per the site configuration
sheet. After each site is integrated in the network, the coverage is to be verified with the
help of extensive drive tests. The results of drive tests are compared to those predicted
by the planning tool, initial coverage plots (before the equipment swap) and also by the
CW tests. Drive tests are done on all the routes where CW tests were initially carried
out. Any changes required to the network is immediately informed, documented, carried
out and verified. Also, the health of network, i.e., KPI is again checked and compared
with that before the equipment swap. After verification is done and results found
satisfactory, the client is submitted with the current coverage plots and drive test data for
verification and approval.

Optimization

Optimization is an activity, which is a never-ending process. And the results of


optimization mostly achieves more than 99% perfection in any kind of network.
Moreover, it results in improved performance of the network and also helps the network
from deteriorating further. Since all the network in the world has totally different
characteristics the process of optimization is mostly different from case to case basis
and may very too much from network to network. It is the ability of an optimization
Engineer to perceive the performance of a network and the results often depends on
how experienced the engineer is. At TWSI, the average experience of an Engineer is far
above the industry average and so is the ability to solve mission critical network
problems.

Benchmarking
It is very important to know the health and characteristics of the existing network to
quantify the improvements and deterioration done to the network after the periodic
optimization is done. For this purpose, the KPI (Key Performance Indicator), if any, used
by the operator should be used, but not limited to it. This may include vital parameters
for interference (Rx Qual), coverage and blocking. OMC statistics shall be recorded and
studied in-depth. The most critical problem should be tackled first. Existing coverage
plots for each cluster is generated to identify areas of poor coverage, voice quality and
also compare it after the optimization activity. As a result of this activity, one may want to
see an improvement in blocking, interference, quality and coverage.

Blocking
The sites having capacity issues are found from the OMC performance statistics. Carrier
addition or new site addition is decided after carrying out the traffic analysis on a per cell
basis. Also, cell load sharing parameters and proper neighbor list is checked and
corrected, informed and documented wherever required.

Lot many times this needs addition of more hardware to the network, like more TRXs or
additional site in the same area, if the cell is not able to handle the amount of traffic
produce by that area. BSC / MSC upgrades or addition more routes between switches
(BSCs or MSCs or both) may also required.

Interference
Sites having interference problems are identified from the OMC performance statistics
and drive test along with the channel scan to be carried out on all of those sites. C / I plot
to be generated for those cells. Detailed analysis to be done on a case-to-case basis to
determine if the interference is co-channel, adjacent channel or other type of
interference. Hardware problems, if any, to be identified and replaced / solved. Features
like synthesized frequency hopping, discontinuous transmission and dynamic MS / BS
power control to be used to tackle the problem. Frequency plan should be reviewed and
if required, redone and implemented. Verify the link budget; transmit power and antenna
tilts, azimuths for the desired direction of radiation.

Quality & Coverage


It is not only important that the subscribers be able to make a call through the network,
but he / she should be able to maintain the call. It is important to improve and maintain
the quality of calls, especially in a scenario of rapid deployment of system with new
services. The day-to-day approach for solving the problems should be “why the problem”
rather then “what the problem”. The input of quality problems to be identified for cells
through alarms, customer complaints, OMC performance statistics and rigorous drive
test measurements. Access failures due to coverage issues to be solved by correcting
the improper transmitter settings, adjusting the antenna heights and tilts and also
providing in-building coverage solutions, wherever required. Use of repeaters, mini,
micro, pico base stations, leaky / radiating coaxial cables should also help solve
coverage issues. Problems with access failures due to BCH pollution, missing paging /
overload, call setup time delay could be solved by revisiting the cell reselection and
adjusting the C1, C2 parameters, altering the paging area, optimizing the TCH queuing
time or checking the authentication / identification / TMSI reallocation procedures.
Problems with RACH and AGCH overloading could be solved by adjusting the max
retransmission value, adjusting appropriate timer, changing the CCCH combination or
isolating and eliminating the interference, if any, due to which RACH with invalid
establishment cause. A-bis monitoring to be done wherever necessary to isolate the
problems. SDCCH congestion to be removed by optimizing for proper location updates
(by altering cell reselect hysterics), periodic updates and catering for traffic requirements
with appropriate number of channels and CCCH channel combination. Features like
dynamic reconfiguration to be used to solve problems with SDCCH congestion. TCH
congestion to be taken care by adjusting proper handover parameters, cell load sharing,
proper neighbor definition, queuing procedures, elimination of interference which makes
the channel unsuitable for allotment, adopting mixed cell architecture, cell splitting,
adding new cells or adding channels to cells. Use of features like Intelligent Underlay /
Overlay also helps solve congestion and coverage problems.

Verification of Network Performance after a pre-determined time


Exactly the same way benchmarking was done, once the suggested changes are
implemented one more time all the KPIs are measured again and compared to the
previous results of benchmarking process to find out the improvement done to the
network.