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Distributed Antenna Systems Benefit from Spectrum Conditioning

Indoor and Outdoor Distributed Antenna Systems can Recover Lost Capacity to Carry More Traffic, Improve Spectrum Utilization and Experience Improved Performance with Spectrum Conditioning
ISCO International January 2012

Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) come in multiple flavors and configurations. At a high level these systems can be viewed as a simple dichotomy, indoor or outdoor. The DAS system type quickly becomes more complex after this first division. Regardless if the system is neutral host or private, over the air donor or dedicated enode B/node B/BTS, fiber-fed special venue indoor or outdoor system, this paper will explain why they all will benefit from the use of spectrum conditioning. Spectrum conditioning is the application of digital signal processing to the air interface, the physical layer, to identify and minimize unwanted adjacent channel RF, the impact of near-far effect and the debilitating impact of co-channel interferers.

The air interface is becoming more polluted with random, unpredictable interference on a daily basis, and DAS system operational qualities make them especially vulnerable. To overcome the challenges of depleted available spectrum operators are packing more carriers into their existing licensed spectrum, squeezing the guard bands between carriers to their limits. While the idea of a DAS is to provide specific coverage and capacity to a defined area, there are more
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antennas to pick up the infinite sources of interference that can impede network performance. Simply stated, by actively conditioning the physical layer of the Distributed Antenna System operators can proactively confront spectral issues and achieve maximum spectrum utility, assuring their customers the best quality of service consistently. This paper will provide a brief overview and explanation of DAS system architectures, discuss key design considerations, and use a specific example to explain how spectrum conditioning will improve the reliability and performance of the network while making sure interference does not reduce handset battery life and the capacity available to carry traffic.

The DAS Dichotomy: Branching into differentiated systems: indoor or outdoor, neutral host or private operator, passive or active
Wireless network operators consider indoor coverage the final frontier for ubiquitous service. All are challenged to find the most cost-effective way to provide continuous service as callers move indoors. There are many approaches to providing indoor coverage; overbuilt macro networks, over the air repeaters, distributed antenna systems, microcells, picocells and femtocells. DAS deployments bring a unique way to flexibly integrate specific indoor coverage needs with the broader wireless network and are expected to continue to grow with major deployments by integrators and wireless carriers. Indoor DAS system types include active or passive, neutral host or private, over-the-air or dedicated enodeB/nodeB/BTS equipment either local to the DAS deployment or in a BTS hotel. Figure 1 illustrates the complexity of DAS configurations and leads to the type of system used in the Case Analysis section of this paper. Indoor vs. Outdoor o Indoor networks are typically deployed in high-traffic buildings such as airports or convention centers, with remote antennas connected via fiber to a central hub o Outdoor networks similarly use fiber to connect the system of antennas back to a central hub, but typically must cover a much larger geographical area

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Figure 1: Example Dichotomy of DAS Network Types Neutral Host vs. Private Operator o Neutral Host DAS networks provide coverage within their domain to all service providers in the supported frequency bands, regardless of air interface or operator o Private Operator networks are implemented by a single operator to provide service to their customers over their own network and do not support other types of connections Active vs. Passive o Active networks use repeater amplifiers to re-broadcast the carried signals through the DAS o Passive networks are simpler, using only cabling, splitters and antennas to distribute the signal to the antennas of the DAS

These DAS configurations vary in design but all bring multiple antennas into a specific area to provide coverage that would not be practical with a macro solution.

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DAS networks have to take the bad with the good

Indoor DAS systems provide a high level of coverage and service to the great indoors without suffering the building penetration losses that impact macro wireless networks. However, the indoor DAS system has to contend with the interior environment which includes walls and partitions, furniture and various types of interior materials as well as other path losses including cables, splitters, and attenuators. These insertion losses and the associated noise figure impact need to be taken into account during the design phase of the indoor system and lead to highly complex, carefully-balance system design with significant challenges. There are zones of operation within the indoor DAS network that are similar to macro networks but with unique properties and problems of their own including handoff coordination, coverage, pilot pollution and link balancing. The DAS system has to be carefully engineered for handoffs within the DAS system as well as to and from the surrounding macro environment. While indoor DAS systems typically enjoy a shorter distance between the access point or antenna and the UE or user handset, it is exactly because of the proximity of the users to the access point that the near-far problem is exacerbated in the DAS environment. DAS system users close to the access point are under power control from the DAS network while users that are not served by the DAS system are under power control from a macro site but are still physically as close to the DAS access point as the DAS users. All of the types of DAS systems are susceptible to high-power adjacent RF, near-far effect and co-channel interference. The challenges posed by any of these will degrade performance in numerous ways including a reduction in carried traffic, increased dropped calls, lower data transfer rates, reduced coverage areas and reduced handset battery life.

A Known Problem: Interference really occurs in DAS networks

In the ideal world there are no competing wireless service providers operating in adjacent frequency bands. There is no near-far effect since all carriers use the same air interface and power control behaves the same for all users being served by a single cell site. If there are competitors they are all operating with the same air interface with serving cell sites the same distance as yours with ample guard bands separating carriers. In the ideal world there is also no occurrence of random co-channel interference to steal capacity available to carry traffic. This, of course, does not describe the real world. In most installations operators will experience all three culprits (adjacent channel, near-far and co-channel) that will impact the planned path loss, propagation coverage models and reverse link channel power. Figure 2 shows RF interference captured in an actual DAS network in three views: on the left is a view from a
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spectrum analyzer, and on the right is a waterfall report for the same location from ISCOs interference mitigation equipment where the green and yellow represent interfering signals being eliminated by the spectrum conditioning equipment. The third view shows another DAS site with both consistent and high volume co-channel interference reported.

Consistent interference

High volume interference

Figure 2: Actual spectral shots at DAS venues These plots, and others from a variety of special event sites, show the presence of co-channel interference that unnecessarily increases channel power, stealing capacity and reducing data transfer rates. Also shown is adjacent RF impacting adjacent channel interference ratio and further increasing the noise rise, disrupting link planning and reducing throughput and capacity. The near-far effect from competing operators or adjacent GSM also exists. Specifically, consider UMTS being serviced by an in-building DAS and adjacent GSM being serviced by an external macro cell site. Even at its lowest level, the GSM handset transmit power will desensitize the adjacent UMTS receiver, degrading performance. This is the real world and
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deploying spectrum conditioning to counter these effects will restore the DAS to the originally designed capabilities and deliver the desired subscriber experience.

DAS networks are susceptible to the worst case for GSM/UMTS coexistence
In a DAS network there are four interference cases that can impact the performance of this coordinated UMTS GSM co-location deployment. These cases are related to transmit and receive characteristics of the base transceiver stations and the UE equipment for both air interfaces. 1. 2. 3. 4. GSM uplink as victim, UMTS UE as interferer GSM downlink as victim, UMTS node B as interferer UMTS uplink as victim, GSM UE as interferer UMTS downlink as victim, GSM BTS as interferer

A sharing study by the Electronic Communications Committee; ECC Report 821 provides comprehensive network simulation results on the compatibility of UMTS and GSM operating in the same band. In the study the limiting scenario was determined to be case 3, UMTS uplink as victim, GSM UE as interferer. This is the situation where the GSM handset in the adjacent band is powered up and being serviced by a distant macro cell site overwhelming the near-in UMTS DAS node B. Even in the most favorable conditions, the limited power control of the GSM UE (typically +5 dBm minimum) results in significant impact on the adjacent UMTS network operation. The impact of adjacent channel interference on a UMTS system is typically parameterized by the adjacent channel interference ratio (ACIR), the ratio of power from the desired signal to the power from interference from adjacent channels. The ACIR itself is a composite quantity based on the performance of the UMTS Node B and UE transceivers:

Equation 1: Relationship between ACIR, adjacent channel selectivity and adjacent channel power leakage

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where ACLR is the transmitters adjacent channel leakage ratio and ACS is the receivers adjacent channel selectivity. The ACIR then represents a composite quantity that includes the effects of both out of band power blocking and in-band power leakage, and the net loss in capacity can be evaluated. To optimize performance, network operators should strive for a higher ACIR. Equation 2 restates that relationship and clearly indicates that ACIR will improve as both ACS and ACLR increase.

Equation 2: Calculating the impact of adjacent RF on the node B sensitivity Mathematically, is it straightforward to demonstrate that if either ACLR or ACS is arbitrarily larger than the other, ACIR becomes dominated by the smaller quantity, thus limiting performance to the weakest link. At the base station, the ACIR of the uplink can thus be improved by improving the Node B receiver ACS, but only to the point at which the ACIR is dominated by the UE ACLR. Table 1 is compiled from 3GPP technical standards TS25.104, TS25.101 and TS45.005 and provides typical ACLR and ACS performance. Parameter ACLR (dB) ACS (dB) UTRA-FDD BTS NA 46.3 Table 1: ACLR and ACS for UTRA-FDD BS and UE Given the constraints of ACLR of the GSM handset and ACS of the node B, spectrum conditioning provides an opportunity to provide improved performance in two complementary ways. First, additional filtering can by dynamically assigned to provide additional selectivity at the band edge, improving upon the ACS of the node Bs receiver. Second, at the same time, spectrum conditioning is applied to reduce the impact of GSM transmissions either adjacent or co-channel with the UMTS band being used. Spectrum conditioning provides pure spectrum for the UMTS channel in both cases, reducing the amount of RF power from interfering signals that can reach the Node B radio cards. In a DAS environment the situation is further exacerbated because of the minimal distance between the GSM UE and the DAS antenna. Spectrum conditioning readily addresses this difference. GSM UE 33 NA

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DAS brings the wireless networks antennas closer to sources of Co-Channel Interference
The challenges for DAS networks do not end with adjacent channel interference. Distributing antennas throughout a building or event site brings the system closer to potential sources of interference such as interference from ID card readers, routers, wireless microphones, two-way wireless communications systems, poorly designed RF amplifiers and other electronic equipment, as well as environmental passive intermodulation (PIM). The many unpredictable sources of co-channel interference can drastically impact network performance, reducing capacity and disrupting the carefully planned DAS network coverage. These types of interference cause the network to increase UE transmit power to overcome the interfering signal, which can further cascade and impact adjacent DAS antenna zones. This phenomenon is well studied and can be demonstrated to impact data capacities and zone coverage. Spectrum conditioning provides a robust and dynamic response to these sources of interference. Known, constant interference at a particular frequency can be specifically blocked, enabling the network to operate at lower power levels. Dynamic interference that can impact any network randomly can be effectively responded to by the automatic deployment of dynamic notch filtering to selectively reject narrow-band interfering signals while leaving the rest of the signal undisturbed. Together these spectrum conditioning capabilities combine to provide resilience to both known and unknown sources of co-channel interference, preventing degradations in system performance before the network is impacted.

Case Analysis: A Private Active UMTS DAS system with dedicated node B and BTS
This case analysis will consider a typical UMTS operator that will need to continue supporting GSM already deployed in the same band. The DAS system this example is based on is pictured in Figure 3. In this example the DAS has a co-located dedicated node B plus a GSM base transceiver station operating in the same band supplying the active DAS network. The active DAS network includes both GSM BTS and UMTS node B, the DAS system main unit, fiber feeds, remote units, coaxial cables and antenna access points. This is an example of coordinated deployment; the GSM and UMTS access points are co-located with each other. The spectrum conditioning section is deployed as an adjunct to the radio channel cards in the UMTS node B.

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Antenna TX/RX UMTS Node B RX Out

Main Unit

Remote Units Fiber Feeds

Coaxial Cable Feeds

RF In Spectrum Conditioning Radio Channel Card In RF Out

Antenna Access Points

Figure 3: Indoor, UMTS node B plus GSM BTS on private active DAS with Spectrum Conditioning The insertion losses for both the uplink and the downlink are taken into account during the design phase. System noise figure is a key component for both GSM and the wide band UMTS air interface. The remote unit incorporates an LNA to keep the system noise figure within reasonable bounds, and the forward link power amplifier sets the final downlink coverage area. Spectrum conditioning of the UMTS uplink is the key to ensuring performance for this installation. As discussed above, the critical combination limiting system coexistence is GSM interference adjacent to the UMTS band and the use of spectrum conditioning on the UMTS uplink provides substantial benefits to the ACIR, which results in improved capacity and coverage when subject to near adjacent GSM signals. This deployment provided substantial benefits to resistance to in-band co-channel interference as well, ensuring optimal performance in the face of the random interferers that occur consistently.

Results: Improving Performance and Spectrum Utilization

Carrier separation is defined as the UMTS carrier center frequency to the first adjacent GSM carrier center frequency as pictured in Figure 4.

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Figure 4: UMTS to GSM carrier separation In todays world where spectrum is at a premium, spectrum conditioning affords greater utility of the allocated radio resource by allowing GSM to UMTS carrier separation on the order of 2.4 MHz to 2.2 MHz. In a DAS environment being able to maintain channel power noise rise and incident power to the radio channel card while reducing the separation is ideal for increasing spectral efficiency at a concentrated customer event; in a macro environment spectral efficiency is even more beneficial based on busy hour demands. By providing significantly improved selectivity of these near-adjacent GSM channels, spectrum conditioning reduces the incident RF power received at the radio channel card of the node B by more than 18 dB affording four additional GSM channels, two on either side of the UMTS carrier, increasing spectrum utilization, as shown in Figure 5.

Figure 5: Spectrum conditioning increases spectrum utility GSM center to UMTS center reduced to 2.4 MHz Another area for concern with respect to adjacent channel interference is uncoordinated deployment. This is the case where the operator has UMTS on the DAS network and operates GSM on a macro network. In this situation the adjacent channel interference can become extreme. GSM has to cover the same inside area with macro sites outside the venue as the UMTS DAS system covers. The GSM UE terminal transmit power will be on the high end of the
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range to complete the uplink back to the macro BTS. The DAS system noise floor will increase as a result of the increased adjacent channel interference. This adjacent channel interference increase will cause the DAS UMTS UE terminals to increase power to overcome the adjacent channel interference (driving down the UE battery life), which in turn will further increase the DAS noise floor. Spectrum conditioning eliminates this problem of adjacent GSM interference by reducing the power incident to the UMTS radio channel card.

Conclusion: Spectrum conditioning through RF Digital Signal Processing can increase the capacity available to carry traffic, improve spectrum utilization and protect dropped call and accessibility performance of critical sites
Global mobile data traffic has increased by 160% in the past year growing more than 10 times faster than voice to 90 petabytes per month, or the equivalent of 23 million DVDs. This requires wireless operators to squeeze as much capacity from the existing spectrum they own as possible maximum utilization is a must. Up to now networks could afford and compensate for the loss of capacity to guard bands, interference and unpredictable environments. Today that is not the case. Idle capacity rarely exists and is certainly not available during busy hour periods or at critical high-traffic or event sites. Now, with Spectrum Conditioning through RF Digital Signal Processing, smaller guard bands and offsets to increase spectrum available for carriers are possible. Mitigating co-channel interference, whether random or self-induced such as GSM, can recover vital capacity being unnecessarily wasted, resulting in improved data transfer rates. Proactively conditioning high profile, high traffic sites, such as DAS environments, from high-power adjacent RF can maintain capacity, performance and throughput, all while improving battery life for the end user by keeping UE transmit power low. For more information about how to add capacity, recover capacity or protect performance for maximum spectrum utilization contact your ISCO International representative.

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About ISCO International: ISCO International operates on the front lines of 3G and 4G communications by enhancing the integrity of a mobile operators physical layer assets the cell site and acquired spectrum. ISCO understands that wireless communications depend heavily on the users RF connection to the base station and the companys spectrum conditioning product line ensures that this connection performs as expected even in the most hostile and unpredictable environments. ISCOs new Proteus product, based on the latest PurePass digital signal processing technology, adaptively identifies and corrects the physical layer impairments (PLI) that decrease a cell site's coverage, capacity, data throughput and KPI performance. In sum, ISCO allows wireless carriers to get the most out of their existing base stations and spectrum (possibly eliminating the need to build additional ones in certain situations), reduce operating expense and deliver a consistently high quality of service. Please visit for more information. More information about all ISCO wireless solutions can be obtained from the ISCO website at

ECC Report 82, Compatibility Study for UMTS Operating Within the GSM 900 and GSM 1800 Frequency Bands, Roskilde, May 2006

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