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What are street level solutions

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How do you guarantee connectivity for dense urban environments?

Connectivity is vital and transformative, but that does not mean it’s available everywhere that it should be. Especially in crowded cities, it has become increasingly difficult to use traditional solutions like cell towers to offer connectivity. What used to be hundreds of devices searching for signal in a neighborhood now easily numbers in the thousands.

Imagine a busy street in a shopping area at lunchtime, or even a subway station at 8:30 am. While these packed areas generally have coverage, telecommunications networks often do not have the capacity to manage the demand for data. If you then add factors like licensing restrictions, availability of viable sites, urban planning rules, or economic feasibility, the picture becomes even more complex.

Without innovative infrastructure solutions, these regions may not get the connectivity they deserve. In other words, you could have five bars of 5G signal but not be able to send a text or make a phone call.

By 2023, the US will have:

+288mm
smartphones
30Gb
user/month in cellular data usage
3x
more data traffic than with 4G LTE

Sources: Statista, Cisco

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Data demands are overwhelming today’s networks

“Being online” has become a constant in people's everyday lives. We already produce on average 44 trillion gigabytes of data per year, a tenfold increase since 2013. With this quantity of data, you could make a stack of 128 GB iPads and reach two-thirds the distance to the moon. And that number continues to grow exponentially. Since the COVID-19 lockdowns began, Internet traffic has increased 40%: 1 year of growth in 1 quarter.

What options are there to ensure that people can connect to what really matters? Clearly, traditional cell towers cannot work in every situation where we need strong cellular signal. When you’re “on the go” in a crowded square and need to take an important call, you need another layer of connectivity to ensure that call goes through.

In the end, we need infrastructure solutions that are more flexible and adaptable to the urban environment. The key is to utilize low-height wireless systems, which we term Street Level Solutions (SLS), that leverage urban street furniture to improve wireless signal.

“Why do I have no connection? I have all four bars on my phone!”

 

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More buildings and structures lead to more physical barriers that impede a mobile signal as it tries to reach devices. These obstacles to line of sight may compromise connectivity. Oftentimes, it is not possible to build or expand the traditional footprint of large towers to address this problem. Not to mention zoning limitations that prohibit normal towers from being installed.

 

The countryside is also connected

Urban agglomerations are not alone in their explosive growth. Suburban and rural municipalities have expanded as well, and so have their connectivity needs. They all have experienced the digital revolution.

In rural areas, for instance, the agriculture sector has reinvented itself to improve efficiency and drive better product yields through technology. Faster production, with less waste and lower costs, is increasingly tied to and driven by strong connectivity.

As is the case in large urban centers, new telecommunications infrastructure also faces challenges in suburban and rural areas. Environmental, architectural, and economic considerations can all limit options and users’ ability to stay connected.

 

ilustra-qmc-campo-conectado-sls10 to 15% of American farmers use IoT technologies on the farm
There were approximately 75 million IoT devices in the US in 2020, and adoption is forecast to grow at 20% annually.

Source: Alpha Brown

 

People can't get cell signal on the street?

No cell signal on your street? SLS may be the the answer

QMC Street level solutions (SLS)

Amidst all of these obstacles to expanding telecommunications infrastructure, QMC has developed an ideal SLS product to address the growth in demand under otherwise restrictive environments.

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What is SLS?

Street Level Solutions (SLS) is the development of low height solutions that leverage the available urban street furniture in order to improve the coverage of wireless carriers.

SLS can be a solution for two main issues:

1 - Capacity problems

When a user tries to browse but cannot download data, despite having “four bars” or a network connection, it normally means that there are presently more mobile connections than the network can support. The network has become overloaded and cannot serve everyone. This is a network capacity problem.

A helpful analogy:

ilustra-qmc-problemas-de-capacidade-slsLet’s pretend for a moment that cellular signal is like a busy avenue. Every day, hundreds of cars drive on the avenue, but there is a limit to how many cars can be on the avenue at any given time. One way to solve this problem would be to expand the number of lanes available; akin to, for instance, to building more towers. But imagine that there is no more space that a city can utilize to expand the lanes. The same can happen with cellular carriers and macro towers.

In this case, another solution would be to increase the number of streets surrounding the busy avenue, providing cars with an alternative means to reach their destination (with a little help from Waze) while reducing the overall number of cars on the avenue. That is how SLS works. It provides alternate routes for the data traffic to reach its final destination.

2 - Coverage problems

When cellular signal simply doesn't reach users, the reason is generally due to large numbers of solid barriers, such as the walls of buildings in urban centers or dense tree coverage. It may also be the result of long distances to the nearest network coverage. In these situations, it is possible that the carriers could not deploy infrastructure closer to the area lacking coverage because of architectural limitations, licensing or environmental considerations. Often the topography itself (e.g., mountainous, uphill, downhill) can negatively impact signal propagation.

In both situations, the solution is to use infrastructure solutions that are closer to the user and provide greater flexibility. Hence the name Street Level Solutions.

 

Facing network coverage and capacity problems?

See how SLS can help

How does an SLS architecture work?

SLS consists of connecting the operator's current network to propagation points closest to the user. This solves the capacity and / or coverage problems discussed above, in addition to ensuring that the transmission component is also resolved.

 

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  1. QMC is responsible for the entire vertical infrastructure (passive equipment, infrastructure, civil works) to create a network of nodes from which the signal is propagated. We install radios that blend in with the street infrastructure and we obtain all the necessary licensing to ensure a successful deployment.

  2. The equipment connects to an operator's existing network through a dedicated optical fiber, ensuring capacity and scalability for the network. And with that, the network is also ready for the challenges that will come with 5G.

  3. Once installed, the network’s signal is distributed through different strategically positioned points to offer capacity and coverage for a targeted sector while also reducing the required network load from the traditional macro coverage layer.

Why trust QMC on SLS?

Willingness to partner with carriers and meet their network needs

We are here to consistently co-create the best technical solutions for carrier networks. We have the tools, experience, and technical knowledge to work side-by-side with carrier partners and ensure that we serve their interests.

As a company, we are focused on building and maintaining the in-house engineering expertise necessary to design, together with our clients’ RF teams, the best solution to their needs.

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Innovative business model

We are willing to break with traditional funding models for wireless infrastructure, and that extends to our SLS solutions. We creatively leverage local partners and federal, state and municipal incentives to lower overall total cost of ownership (TCO).

In addition, we always look for ways to form partnerships to expand our geographic reach and capillarity through the assets which we have under agreement.

Extensive experience with fiber and small cells

We are proud to have been innovators in the small cells and fiber infrastructure ecosystems in the markets where we operate. It’s deeply rooted in our technical team’s DNA. We have accumulated deep knowledge and experience in construction, maintenance and development of fiber optic networks.

Besides that, when we turn in a project, we maintain constant monitoring through our Network Operations Center (NOC). All of our clients will always have easy access to us to resolve any questions or concerns.

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Get all the benefits of an outdoor network without needing to build a macro tower.

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See who else already has one of our dedicated street level connectivity solutions

case-foto-balneario-camboriu

Balneário Camboriú and QMC: the challenge of bringing connectivity to 1 million people

The traditional Central Beach fireworks display in Balneário Camboriú attracts tourists from around the world for Brazil’s second largest New Year’s Eve party. The New Year’s Eve countdown featured more than 1 million people celebrating on the shore, and one of the biggest improvements was guaranteeing that cell signal worked for all of these tourists, allowing them to wish “Happy New Year” to all of their family and friends through mobile connectivity.

Read the case study

FAQ

Are the SLS systems offered by QMC licensed?

Are SLS systems compatible with 5G technology?

Who is responsible for maintaining the SLS systems offered by QMC?

What is the difference between SLS and Small Cells?