Case Study: Centralised small cell system for AECOM HQ in London
AECOM is a global engineering and construction consultancy that has participated in a number of high-profile international construction projects, including many of the buildings that shape London’s skyline.
Overcoming mobile connectivity challenges
AECOM consolidated its London business operations to create a new EMEA headquarters at Aldgate Tower in the middle of London and designed a fresh workplace strategy. The strategy was conceived by AECOM’s own consultancy whose extensive commercial experience in doing this for other customers is globally recognised.
At the heart of the strategy is mobile activity-based working with collaborative workspaces covering four working floors and the 16th floor visitors centre. As part of AECOM’s workplace culture, there are very few permanent workspaces assigned to employees.
Employees without permanent workspaces carry their office in their laptop and enterprise communications in their mobile. Because project teams can schedule space and congregate anywhere within the working floors, high-capacity wireless connectivity is critical to AECOM’s workplace strategy. To illustrate the importance of mobile service to AECOM, voice minutes utilisation is regularly in Vodafone UK’s Top Ten list.
AECOM suspected that the building’s high performing solar glass was limiting the connectivity to the mobile network required across AECOM floors as the glass blocks the signal from entering the building. This was confirmed during the initial onsite multi-frequency Radio Frequency survey that the Service Provider, Opencell, performed after construction of the building’s outer shell was completed.
While all employees use mobile devices from the corporate cellular provider, AECOM’s project team knew that services were needed from all four UK mobile network providers to serve clients, international employees, and visitors.
“Mobile coverage from all four operators was a key consideration, not only for our own workforce but also for guests. Many people think that we have mobile coverage throughout the country and wonder why they need to install in-building systems”, says Tony Buckingham, regional director, Smart Buildings, AECOM.
A Small Cell solution
After researching the potential vendors and options available to solve the four operator service problem, AECOM chose to work with Opencell. Opencell is the first legal, multi-operator in-building mobile signal solution provider in the UK that can provide connectivity for all four major mobile operators to enable 3G and 4G coverage and capacity.
Together with SpiderCloud, Opencell launched the UK’s first centralised Small Cell system including both of Vodafone’s 3G and 4G services.
AECOM selected the smart Small Cell solution from Opencell using Corning’s SpiderCloud Enterprise RAN technology to meet the challenging service demands.
Opencell took advantage of the all-IP transport of the SpiderCloud architecture and deployed the solution on the AECOM IP backbone in the building. Since structured cabling was already installed to support wired computers and building Wi-Fi, only a handful of additional cables were required on each floor to complete the installations.
Opencell pioneered installation of the first centralised SpiderCloud Services Node in their data centre as a sharable resource for multiple sites. The Aldgate Tower building Radio Nodes are installed on the working floors and they connect, via IP, to the centralised Services Nodes in the Opencell data centre.
The tight construction timeframe is a great example of how mobile spectrum can be deployed as an IT installation. The deployment itself was done without disturbing any professional activity and the system worked from the start.
“SpiderCloud E-RAN is the best 3G & 4G product currently available. Used with centralised service node and shared backhaul, it means that customers have the best service at the lowest possible price.” comments Graham Payne, CEO, Opencell.
Floor-to-floor operator service
Today, AECOM experiences full operator service across all floors and the mobile spectrum is working well for all four mobile operators. Employees are able to work on their phones and on the mobile network alongside Wi-Fi. Service satisfaction for the staff and visitors is 100%, with no complaints around lack of coverage or dropped calls.
The overall installation cost of alternative solutions would have been much higher than the Small Cell solution, and without any guaranteed operator. Increases in data usage by employees are significant given the reliability of the coverage for all four UK operators in the building.
This successful project is groundbreaking for the industry and serves as a model for many future projects. Indeed, after deploying Small Cells together with Opencell and SpiderCloud in the EMEA HQ at Aldgate Tower, AECOM now advises its customers that they can also use Small Cells, with multiple operators, at a price point close to a Wi-Fi installation.
AECOM put themselves to the test: the vision was to create the best for staff and visitors, which was achieved together with its partners. The demonstrated success of Small Cells from Opencell, enabled by Corning’s SpiderCloud product family, is a solution that AECOM will recommend to others in the future.
“When we first moved in the building, it you were sitting at your desk you couldn’t pick up a mobile phone conversation. Since the solution has been completed I can pick a phone call anywhere in the building and not worry about dropping the other end of the line.” says Ella Pope, senior mechanical engineer, AECOM.
“The experience that we have gained at Aldgate Tower has been essential to us. It gives us knowledge about how the Opencell and SpiderCloud systems perform. It is a system that we will certainly put forward to other clients in other applications.” comments Tony Buckingham, regional director of Smart Buildings, AECOM.
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