ClearSky FORTE® employs a unique combination of small cells and Ethernet LAN equipment inside the property, all tightly integrated into ClearSky’s proprietary management system. As shown in the diagram, the fundamental components are the small cells, the Site Manager and the Ethernet network used for interconnecting these components. The following sections explore each of these components in greater detail.
Historically, cellular networks consisted exclusively of “cell sites”, antenna arrays mounted on a tower with a radio base station enclosed in a building at the base of the tower. Small cells are a new generation of cell site that condenses all this same technology into a package the size of a soup bowl. An indoor small cell is designed to be mounted on the ceiling or wall and provide cellular coverage and capacity inside the envelope of the building. While covering less area and supporting fewer simultaneous users than the small cell’s larger outdoor brethren, an indoor small cell is perfect to provide strong signal and excellent performance directly to occupants of a property.
Generating the cellular signal for each wireless operator requires a dedicated set of small cells for that specific operator. This configuration allows the property to decide which combination of the four operators they want to support and only the equipment necessary for that selection is installed. Because small cells have more power and work at different frequencies than Wi-Fi access points, the number of small cells for each operator is far less than the number of Wi-Fi access points in most buildings. Even if all four wireless operators are supported, the number of small cells necessary for a property is similar or less than the number of Wi-Fi access points needed to serve the building.
A small cell system for an operator can range from one to several hundred units. The broadcast power of the small cell varies by operator but generally each unit can cover between 5,000 and 10,000 square feet. As a result, properties ranging from as small as 10,000 square feet to those well over 1,000,000 ft2 can be served by a ClearSky FORTE system.
At the core of the in-building system is the ClearSky Site Manager. It contains the intelligence to control and monitor the various small cells throughout the property. The Site Manager constantly monitors the FORTE Operations Center, simultaneously sending voice and data traffic through the appropriate cell and rapidly selecting the best serving cell for each user in the building.
The Site Manager also monitors the health and well being of the small cells and reports issues back to the Neutral Host Gateway. ClearSky monitors the system performance 24 x 365 days per year and takes the responsibility for fixing any issues, be they with the in-building equipment or with the wireless operators’ networks.
The interconnection of the Site Manager with the small cells uses industry-standard CAT 5/6 cabling and Ethernet switches equipped with Power over Ethernet (PoE+). With only a single Ethernet cable to run, the lightweight small cells can be mounted on walls or ceiling tiles with simple screws or clips. Installations are very similar to installing Wi-Fi access points. The PoE+ feature eliminates the need for 120V wiring.