Site Commissioning

In the Wireless Broadband industry an often overlooked process or issue of diminished
importance is Site Commissioning. In the haste to add customers or prove the
success of an installation, a complete commissioning of the Hub, Access Point or
Base Station is pushed to the “back burner”. Neglecting the Site Commissioning often
negates the rationale behind skipping the step in the first place. Quality assurance
procedures are in place for every successful industry and there is no reason why we
should not plan for success.

The success of the system deployment demands that the design goals be met. The
best method for gauging the success of the installation is to perform a complete Site
Commissioning. The criteria for what constitutes a complete Site Commissioning
depends on the type of platform and complexity of the system. The original design
criteria was based on the coverage, reliability and Quality of Service planned for the
customer. So, these items should drive the list of items to be tested and confirmed
during the commissioning process. The commissioning process rarely adds to the
overall project schedule, and skipping it only lengthens the trouble shooting phase.
During the design process we determine the transmitter power requirements, receiver
sensitivity and dynamic range, the feedline losses and antenna gains. It only makes
sense to confirm that the specifications associated with these devices are met and that
the integration of the devices was successful. Tests at the access point and field
measurements are required to confirm the successful system construction. In addition
to the confirmation process, these tests and measurements provide a perfect
opportunity for the familiarization and training of lesser skilled technical personnel. The coverage testing can provide important marketing inputs.

What kinds of problems are uncovered during the commissioning process? Down
converter gain settings incorrect. Feedlines attached to incorrect antennas or headend
equipment. Antennas installed for the wrong band. Antennas with electrical down tilt
mounted upside down. Antennas pointed at erroneous double digit angles.
Malfunctioning transmitters. Receivers with local oscillators tuned to incorrect frequencies.
Multicouplers with bad splitters. This is by no means a complete list.

Although most of the items I’ve mentioned pertain to the physical layer properties of the system, it’s important to not overlook the customer provisioning aspects. The
commissioning process should include checks to ensure customers are being provisioned in correct cells, sectors and provided with correct QOS levels. Don’t overlook the importance of beta customers with early deployments. They can provide a tremendous asset in determining items to include in a commissioning effort, but make sure they understand their responsibility. I recently heard “I hated to bother anyone since I was receiving the service for free”. As I mentioned earlier about familiarization and training, here is a tremendous opportunity for sales and marketing personnel to become involved.

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