Yesterday I visited three sites. A University campus, a school and two council offices, to complete radio site surveys. This is something that we do for the DeafWatch™ system on a regular basis. In some ways it the simplest of tests, simply to walk around and ensure that the signal arrives without corruption everywhere. However, it can prove fiendishly difficult.

The first place everyone (and I mean everyone) takes up is to the bit of the building where the mobile signal is the worst. This can sometimes prove a tricky spot for us, but its unlikely. As I cover in detail in the FAQ, mobile phone coverage is dependant of so many variables … it’s quite easy to break, especially within a dense commercial building. Unlike a mobile mast, what we are checking for is performance within a building from a transmitter generally within said building.

That said, due to our performance, we have covered very large buildings, even complexes from a single location, a great example being University of Northampton Park Campus, where we cover 35 buildings across 25 evacuation zones with three transmitters from the University reception and Security room. All across an 89 acre site.

The importance of doing the survey, on top of all the other maintenance requirement stipulated by the British Standards, is that it is about applying an experienced eye to the performance behaviour throughout a site and this can change for multiple reasons.

Our transmitter output and performance is incredible, but modern buildings are built with a dramatic increase in high density concrete, rebar reinforced concrete, in essence creating hyper-dense Faraday cages. This proves a challenge for commissioning and survey work, but concrete radio performance is less prone to variation. After all, if you can get through that… everything else is easy.

It also about keeping a weather eye out for changes where the installer just isn’t familiar with the behaviour or impact of their services. IT department and Wi-Fi deployments jump to mind.

For the most part coverage is a consistent thing, but to the experienced surveyor, its possible to identify minor changes in performance between ‘summer’ and ‘winter’ surveys, especially in people rich environments like universities. The combination of changes in building temperature, crowd migration and building design can throw up some interesting variables.

Older buildings, especially historical building are a charm to cover, as they have a consistency of construction which is very nice to survey.

And so I walk, and walk. The second largest University I walk tested earlier this year drummed up a not inconsiderable 56,000 steps and over 100 stories climbed over 2 days.

As a child I was read a strange book where a mouse walks until his shoes run out. He then buys new shoes from a vendor conveniently at the side of the road. He then walks until his feet run out, and a stallholder awaits with a glorious selection of brand new feet to choose from.

Sometimes I feel I could use some new feet.

Chris Durham 24 April 2016