RadioFrame hits indoor coverage market


NEW YORK-With its announcement March 5 of commercial product availability, RadioFrame Networks Inc. officially threw its hat into the ring of players competing to improve indoor coverage, an important step toward landline replacement.

In late 1999, Rob Mechaley founded the privately held company, which is headquartered in Redmond, Wash. Formerly chief scientist of McCaw Cellular Communications Inc. and AT&T Wireless Services, he led the group that built the North American Cellular Network, was co-inventor of Cellular Digital Packet Data and was a member of AT&T’s “Project Angel” fixed wireless team.

Other key members of management include Jeff Brown, president and chief executive officer of the company, and Mary Jesse, vice president and chief technology officer. Brown was president and CEO of Data Critical Corp. before joining Radio Frame Networks earlier this year. He had worked with Mechaley on development of CDPD. Jesse previously was director of Project Angel’s engineering group and vice president of McCaw Cellular’s Strategic Technology Group.”

RadioFrame Networks has developed its technology to provide several important benefits and address several key problems for wireless service providers, their businesses customers and for building owners and managers, he said.

The popularity of bucket-of-minute calling plans and the growing use of wireless data has transferred a lot of airtime minutes that were mobile and outdoors to inside and stationary environments.

“A tremendous amount of indoor use is driven off outdoor macrocells. We expand coverage and capacity,” he said.

“We are unloading traffic off of the outdoor environment as an alternative to cell splits. … Because we look like a network element to other network elements, they play with us.”

The cacophonous environment generated by all that communicating over the airwaves taxes the ability of cell sites to distinguish among individual calls. The transceivers’ accommodation to this situation creates problems for wireless devices.

“The base station hears so much that it has to increase power to each phone. You should get the best battery life indoors. At lower power levels, the phones don’t run so hot,” Mechaley said.

“Our system is hospital safe because there are no (usage) limitations caused by multiple antennas running at their highest levels.”

The RadioFrame system also can connect to a private branch exchange, allowing the mobile phone to serve as a cordless phone inside a building, he said.

Given that there are many cellular, personal communications services and data transmission standards, the software-defined radio system can be configured to any single wireless standard or multiple standards. It also is capable of Ethernet transmission speeds.

“Inside are RadioBlades, which are radio front ends that talk to our software-defined radios in the chassis. They are agile within air interface widths and can change personality based on the software-defined radios.”

With property managers in mind, RadioFrame designed each cell site to be as small as an exit sign while providing 32,000 square feet of coverage. The unit also uses small amounts of electricity, can be connected easily to local area network cables and requires no maintenance.

“A lot of solutions out there, like distributed antenna systems, require hand tuning, and you need, in essence a cell site, hundreds of square feet, to feed them,” Mechaley said.

“Distributed antenna systems have been around for quite a long time, but they have been slow to take off because of the big base stations in the basement that they require. They have a lot of limitations we can answer, and we hope to work with distributed antenna companies.”

RadioFrame Networks also seeks to work with telecommunications carriers, with large companies in need of advanced communications connectivity and capacity and with real estate and related enterprises in business to facilitate delivery of telecommunications within buildings.

The company’s announcement comes a month after Armstrong World Industries Inc., Lancaster, Pa., debuted pop-out ceiling tiles with radio-frequency antennas embedded in their upward facing sides. Centurion Wireless Technologies Inc., Westminster, Colo., is the antenna supplier.

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