There are a multitude of factors operators take into account before deploying their networks in order to provide us with the best possible coverage. Since the radio communication of mobile networks is peer-to-peer, the most significant aspect of coverage is that the device sees the mobile mast. To bring some clarity to what coverage means, and how to calculate it, we will introduce: the elements that influence coverage for both operators and their subscribers, coverage planning and our coverage and range estimation tool.
Coverage varies from cell site to cell site, and depends on the type of terrain, the equipment used, the type of buildings around the site, the radio frequency but also, very importantly, on the sensitivity and transmit efficiency of the subscriber’s equipment.
The coverage level also relies heavily on the antenna type or the amplifier power levels. The further you get from the cell site, the weaker the signal gets, as the ground clutter standing in the signal’s way increases. This makes coverage drop exponentially.
Operators can increase the strength of the signal and the coverage, through higher power transmissions, taller antenna masts, a higher antenna gain etc. Antenna gain is, in fact, a crucial factor in getting a broader coverage, as it accounts for the losses and the directivity of an antenna. The relation between the antenna gain and the coverage is directly proportional, i.e. the higher the antenna gain, the more coverage the cell site will deliver.
Network planners use propagation models like Hata, Cost231 or Walfisch-Ikegami, to roughly calculate, in a quantitative manner, what can be expected in a specific environment. They also utilize more accurate tools that take into account the exact type of environment where their cell sites will be deployed, as the Radio Mobile RF propagation simulation software.
For mobile subscribers, coverage depends on their devices’ capabilities, since they are not all the same. Also, the coverage level will not be the same if they use their device attached to a car kit, handheld or with an external antenna.
As an important note, always keep in mind that most times, coverage depends on both the device’s ability to “see” the antenna and the antenna’s capability to reach the device.