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The Challenge Of Cellular Coverage In Aged Care

The frustrations of poor indoor cellular coverage are universal.  Poor connectivity is one of the major challenges faced by building management, and existing cellular systems do not necessarily provide the required level of reliability and security to support their needs.

Cellular coverage is delivered over RF spectrum which is leased to telco operators by the Australian Federal Government. Over the years the spectrum being used for this has gradually increased in frequency through the generations from GSM to 4G and now to 5G.

All major Australian carriers are currently rolling out 5G networks across Australia with the main players offering 5G with promises of faster download speeds and entertainment packages.  5G promises to deliver more capacity, faster speeds, and less latency. Meaning your cellular data will perform better in crowded, public spaces with multiple users attempting to utilise it. It will also mean that users will enjoy high-speed downloads and uploads for streaming and sharing on social media. Unfortunately, the higher the frequency the less area it covers and the less it penetrates through different kinds of building materials. The result is that any 5G signal will be limited in terms of its coverage area.

Building materials all to a degree impact the penetration of mobile phone signal into a building structure, some more so than others. Typically, metal reduces signal the most, followed by concrete, metallic window tint and then plaster wall in descending order of impact. A solid concrete wall will easily take 10dB – 20dB off a mobile signal, consequently, one can see how being in an underground car park or within a lift (a metal box surrounded by a concrete shaft) can be a particularly challenging place to receive a mobile signal.

Vendors and developers need to treat healthcare environments differently to other verticals.  But this isn’t always the case, especially when organisations are still using legacy systems. Organisations need to avoid general enterprise solutions and seek out vendors and products that have been proven successful in this environment.

With different sizes of facilities and locations, Powertec can advise on the most cost-effective connectivity solutions. Powertec has over 110,000 installations in Australia and New Zealand, including large companies, government departments, small to medium-sized businesses, farms, aged-care facilities, hospitals, and individual consumers.

CASE STUDY

The Glenbrook residential aged care facility, in Nambour QLD, had suffered from a complete lack of mobile coverage since its construction ten years ago. Despite the nearest tower being only 2km away, the cellular signal had failed to service the aged care facility, both inside and outside the building. Previously, staff and patients made do with the landline connections, but now mobile technology has become essential for communication.

There were connectivity issues where the signal was interrupted by the building materials, concrete, steel and tinted glass. The solution was to install Powertec Blackhawk LPDA external antennas to ensure a clear signal could be received from the carriers, Cel-Fi GO repeaters were used to amplify the signal providing a uniform coverage distribution amongst all carriers. 

The aged care facility staff were thrilled that they could access mobile signal within the building. The enhancement resulted in improved workplace health and safety and patient and staff social communications.

It’s important for aged care facilities to continue to run while new technology is installed. Powertec installers can work quickly to install cables and antennas in fact, most installations don’t take more than a day and as a result, staff can continue to work with little to no disruption as the equipment is installed.

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