April 24, 2001, 5:08 PM — Nextel Communications customers looking for better coverage when they're inside their office or at an airport will soon get relief, the company says.
Nextel is expected to announce this week that it will deploy RadioFrame wireless systems inside buildings to offer customers improved indoor digital cellular coverage. The wireless service provider will first target high-rise buildings, campuses, airports and shopping malls that are densely populated with Nextel customers.
Wireless service providers, such as Nextel, are deploying indoor minicell sites to improve spectrum use and the quality of service within buildings. The latter is expected to increase usage.
"This product allows us to provide indoor coverage where it was not available in the past," says Eddie Edwards, director of base station and fiber technology at Nextel.
The RadioFrame gear will be able to move traffic off Nextel's standard radio frequency network and onto spectrum that it owns but is not suitable for use because of building interference.
Such gear overcomes building interference obstacles within an existing spectrum range in large office buildings, shopping malls and airports.
RadioFrame uses a software-defined radio system that detects and registers wireless users within an indoor facility, so calls for those users are forwarded to the RadioFrame minicell site instead of a standard, outdoor cell site.
The system supports all wireless standards by adding RadioBlades, which are radio frequency interfaces, to the RadioFrame transceiver.
The vendor has a licensing deal with Motorola so it can mimic the same features and functionality of Nextel's proprietary Motorola-based Integrated Dispatch Enhanced Network digital cellular network.
The RadioFrame device also supports Bluetooth and 802.11 wireless LAN standards.
"A campus environment that has a high concentration of wireless users can cause capacity problems for the regular [radio frequency] network, so it makes sense to give these users a dedicated cell site," says Elliot Hamilton, senior vice president at Strategies Group, a consulting firm.
There are hot spots in metropolitan areas where spectrum use is high. Wireless service providers are looking to offer users reliable service, while getting the most out of the spectrum they already have, Hamilton says. Spectrum efficiency becomes more of a problem as users buy buckets of wireless minutes every month and want to use what they pay for.
Nextel will begin field trials in July or August.
The company also expects to offer new services using the technology.
Because the RadioFrame gear connects directly to an existing LAN or wireless LAN, Nextel expects it will be able to link wireless users to their corporate PBX systems.