Software optimizes mobile nets

For mobile carriers looking for ways to maximize their frequency planning use in wireless networks, ComOpt Inc. may have just the software tool to assist in the process.

ComOpt’s CellOpt Automatic Frequency Planning Software (AFP) uses mathematical algorithms to optimize frequency spectrum use. Since frequency channels are limited, the wireless network is constantly re-using channels. The CellOpt software shows wireless network managers where to install radios across a geographic region so that the frequencies don’t interfere with one another.

“Our software actually selects at which base stations and antennas certain frequencies can be used. It’s very much a number-crunching engine,” said Vince D’Onofrio, president of ComOpt in Arlington, Va. He explained that once the software determines the number of radios needed, or accounts for hardware changes within the base stations that may challenge the channel spacing in the wireless network, CellOpt generates a report determining where frequencies are allotted.

The software helps engineers determine which frequency can be used and reused to maximize network efficiency. The program also maintains frequency plans daily to help carriers further reduce network infrastructure costs.

For wireless carrier NexTel Communications Inc. in Reston, Va., after manually controlling the frequency availability on its Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) network, the firm decided on ComOpt’s AFP software to automate the process.

Len Cascioli is vice-president, engineering and operations at NexTel. He said the telco has been using the software for over a year. Prior to implementing the AFP tool, it had to examine all the reuse scenarios on a cell-by-cell site basis to determine the best way to assign frequencies. NexTel realized some sites were “being missed” because the process was manual.

Since moving to automation, NexTel has reduced “man-hours by a factor of 10” while “adding additional spectrum efficiencies” and improved the quality of its network on the whole, Cascioli said. He added that the software is able to search through all the frequency scenarios and pick the most appropriate one.

As a result, “we have radically changed the way we look at the need for capacity sites”, Cascioli said. He explained how previously each site was responsible for its own frequency planning. By using the AFP software, NexTel consolidated the individual sites into one location that now manages frequency planning for the entire network.

One industry analyst noted that while ComOpt is not a huge player in the frequency planning space, its solution has made optimizing cellular networks less of a headache for engineers.

“ComOpt delivers software that simplifies the process of identifying where frequencies should be in a particular network,” said Brian Sharwood, principal analyst at the SeaBoard Group Inc. in Toronto. As he explained, users will know the software tool is working effectively if their cell calls aren’t suddenly cut off as they move from frequency to frequency.

“It hands the call off to the next tower…an instantaneous switch-over that the user wouldn’t notice,” Sharwood said.

The AFP tool is not applicable to Code-Division Multiple Access (CDMA) technology, which Canadian carriers Bell Mobility, its affiliates and Telus Mobility use. CDMA networks don’t require frequency reuse. The CellOpt software works with the GSM and Integrated Digital Enhanced Network (iDEN) networks, ComOpt’s D’Onofrio said.

ComOpt is online at