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Vilicom High Capacity Stadia Design1

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  • Satisfying user demand for social media

    and smartphone usage is an increasing

    challenge for all Operators in sports

    stadiums. Design choices are varied and

    complex and selecting the right turnkey

    supplier is paramount.

    Signalling the Future

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    Executive Summary The growth and demand for cellular services wherever and whenever has steadily increased over the years. The recent rapid growth of smartphone devices has exponentially accelerated this demand. Access to the internet, coupled with the numerous applications available to the user, is putting great demands on the operators for data capacity. The end user experience has never been as important as it is now!

    Business owners are seeing the internet as a key advertising channel, not just for their own web presence, but also the use of social media channels. The opportunity to deliver targeted advertising and interacting with their customers, has led to stadium owners putting an increased focus on the cellular coverage within their stadia.

    Each stadium is different and presents differing requirements and challenges, both from technical design and stakeholder management. The key abilities required in delivering a stadium design are:

    A robust design that is not just a design for today, but for the future. A design that delivers the right solution, using the right products, with the right quality and at the right price.

    A stakeholder management capability. There will be many stakeholders who will have a direct investment and interest in the solution. They have to be confident that the solution will deliver their requirements. They have to be kept updated and their questions, as well as request for changes, must be managed.

    Flexibility to address changes to requirements. Changes in stakeholder requirements or even changes due to stadium modifications require a dynamic re-design often with a high degree of creativity.

    Under pinning the above is a strong project management capability.

    More and more stadium owners are becoming aware of the benefits of a strong cellular solution within their stadium. Covering the open areas, the executive rooms, and the administration, stadium owners will have the opportunity to deliver revenue generating or event enhancing services.

    Within this paper, Vilicom shares its experience of deploying cellular solutions within a couple of the largest stadia in Europe as well as a medium sized stadium. Large or small, the benefits for the owner and the operators are very positive.

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    Table of Contents Executive Summary ......................................................................................................... 2

    Introduction ...................................................................................................................... 4

    Large Stadium: Football club ........................................................................................... 6

    Croke Park: Gaelic Athletic Association ......................................................................... 11

    Craven Cottage: Fulham FC .......................................................................................... 19

    Conclusion ..................................................................................................................... 24

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    Introduction Smartphones have changed the way we communicate at home, at business

    and at play. For mobile operators and stadia owners, the combination of

    smartphones, mobile devices, innovative marketing opportunities, and Social

    Media offer lucrative revenue-generating opportunities.

    However, network operators also face technical issues and financial

    challenges as stadia are expensive to kit out and may only be used 15, 30, or

    50 days a year.

    As a specialist network design firm, Vilicom brings the worlds of Mobile

    Operators and Infrastructure owners together to improve their capacity.

    Some of these include:

    Croke Park, an 80,000 seat stadium in Dublin, Ireland

    A large stadium home to a Premier League football club

    Craven Cottage, the oldest stadium in London at Fulham FC

    Before we look at these projects, lets rewind for a moment to put things in


    In 1966, England won the World Cup final in Wembley Stadium. Remember,

    at that time, the number of televisions was measured per street, not per

    household. More people heard the game than saw it, listening in on the radio.

    In 2012, London hosts the Olympics. Few will listen to the opening ceremony

    of the radio. Most will watch it on the television, over the Internet and with

    mobile devices.

    For the hosts, this creates wonderful opportunities to share the experience with fans.

    For fans, smartphones help them make calls, share photos, send videos, and stream live data.

    For the mobile operators, while this creates a unique opportunity, there is one hurdle that needs to be overcome. In a word - capacity.

    In this white paper, well examine the technical and practical challenges

    involved in designing and rolling out solutions for high capacity stadia.

    As a specialist network design firm, Vilicom brings the worlds of Mobile Operators and Infrastructure owners together to improve their capacity.

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    Large Stadium: Football club This large stadium is home to a football club that has a capacity of around

    75,000, making it the second-largest football stadium in England after

    Wembley, and the eleventh-largest in Europe.

    It underwent several expansions in the 1990s and 2000s, including the

    addition of extra tiers to the North, West and East stands. The ground

    frequently hosts FA Cup semi-final matches and aside from football-related

    uses, has hosted rugby league's Super League Grand Final.


    This large stadium, in common with other stadia faced the twin challenges of

    coverage and capacity. Also, with consideration to the 2012 Olympics,

    operators have began working together in preparation for this prestigious


    The main issue for the operators is to be able to offer a high level of capacity

    in the stadium to their respective customers. Multi-operator and technology

    systems are not new, but it is not normal that such high traffic needs to be

    catered for.

    Therefore the most suitable solution is to look at serving the users with

    dedicated coverage by implementing many small, well contained cells. Based

    on a recent BBC survey to investigate expected 3G traffic demand from

    Olympic spectators, 18Mbytes/user/day is expected.

    This translates 1 UMTS carrier per 2000 spectators when using 7.2 HSDPA


    This large stadium will host nine Football matches during the Olympic Games, including a semi-final in both the men's and women's competitions.

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    Taking practical cell and antenna arrangements into account, the stadium will

    require approximately 22 separate two-carrier sectors to provide the

    available capacity for the expected number of users.

    Selection Process & Goals

    Based on our success with similar projects, the operators and the owners of

    this large stadium recognised Vilicom had the necessary skills, expertise and

    track record to make the project succeed.

    Vilicoms role was to provide a detailed coverage design to all stadium areas,

    which involved optimising the solution, minimising waste and cost, and

    achieving the specified coverage and capacity targets.

    This has now been achieved, resulting in a strong architecture which is

    practical and pragmatic to install while reducing the quantities of equipment

    and hence saving time and money.

    Technical Design

    To put this in context, lets look at the technical design. The architecture was

    divided into three parts:

    1. Stadium Bowl. 34 Antennas positioned around the edge of the bowl

    roof, point into the crowd and provide dedicated coverage and service

    to blocks of 4,000 spectators (on average). Each antenna is

    connected to a dedicated optical remote repeater unit, which is

    connected back to a master unit via fibre optic cable. All operators RF

    signals are combined on the one systems, and the entire system can

    be configured to each operators requirements.

    2. Internal Stadium Areas. All areas and floors are covered by a DAS

    system with 24 optically fed remote units and 220 antennas.

    3. External Stadium Areas. An additional 6 cells around the outside of

    the stadium cover the immediate parking and entrance to areas of the


    Two dedicated BTS rooms house all operators equipment and connectivity

    to the optical master system.

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    The location of roof mounted antennas and remote units is illustrated above.

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    Example of internal antenna plan for level 3, the VIP and hospitality suites

    Basic Concept

    To understand how the design works, lets look at the following process:

    The BTS operator feeds a reduced RF signal power to an optical

    master unit.

    This converts the signal to be distributed over several optical fibres to

    remote repeater units (amplifiers).

    At the remote unit, the optical signal is converted and amplified back

    as an RF signal for conventional distribution of coax cable to the


    Optical systems compensate for RF losses associated with long RF Cable

    lengths, and simplify installation work. They also have the benefit of remotely

    locating a BTS room from the coverage area (for up to 10 kilometers).

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    Croke Park: Gaelic Athletic Association The spiritual home of the Gaelic Athletic Association, Croke Park has been at

    the heart of Irish sporting life for over a hundred years. Boasting a capacity

    for 82,300 people, the stadium is the home of Gaelic Games and the

    headquarters of the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA).

    In the 1980's the GAA decided to investigate ways to increase the capacity of

    Croke Park. As a result the design for an 80,000 capacity stadium with a

    three-tier design was completed in 1991.

    The redevelopment of Croke Park allowed for a main concourse, a premium

    level incorporating hospitality facilities such as restaurants, bars and

    conference areas and finally an upper concourse. The entire redevelopment

    of the Stadium cost approximately 260 million.

    Located in the heart of Dublin, it provides facilities for sports events,

    concerts, conferences and events for the business community. As the third

    largest stadium in Europe, after Barcelonas Nou Camp and Wembley in

    London, it also faces specific technical challenges.

    Remember that ten years ago, few fans had camera-ready phones; five

    years ago, few had video options; and less than two years ago, not many

    had phone, camera and video bundled on one device.

    The advent of smartphones changed this. Today, many visitors come to

    matches with powerful internet-ready phones with cameras and videos pre-

    installed. The iPhone took things to the next level, offering a richer suite of

    applications with Social Media apps that encouraged the sharing,

    commenting and interactivity.

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    The challenges facing the GAA involved meeting customer expectations,

    understanding emerging technologies, and making commercial decisions that

    would position Croke Park as an industry leader when hosting sports

    matches, concerts, and business events.

    Likewise, the challenges for the Operators were to:

    Design a system that would support the anticipated capacity


    Develop a shared capital commercial model, aligned with each partys


    Manage the project delivery, coordinate multiple teams, and source

    the necessary equipment

    Engage with Croke Park and work around other parallel projects

    when onsite

    Understand the potential revenue streams, and customer

    expectations that justify the investment in the project

    However, the priority for the GAA was to ensure that its visitors many of

    who are members of local GAA clubs around the country had the best

    possible experience when visiting Croke Park. Of course, this also extended

    to rugby fans, concert goers, VIPs, and corporate boxes

    This meant designing a system that:

    Offered network services to 80,000 fans simultaneously

    Ensured sufficient RF levels were achieved across all sectors in the


    Reduced interference and contained the RF signal within the stadium

    Covered corporate areas, team communication, media

    communication, seating bowl and access/vendor areas

    And, while this applies to capacity crowds at the weekends, coverage is also

    required at business seminars and conferences during off peak times.

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    On a more granular level, stadium events present capacity demands for

    Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) such as:

    User Demands. Croke Park holds 82,500 people, many of whom

    want to photo, record and discuss the match with mobile devices.

    Physical Limitations. As the stadium is concentrated into a relatively

    small area, its hard to implement so many cells without diminishing

    quality of service.

    Spikes in Usage. Visitors tend to use their phones at specific times,

    for instance, before the game, at half time, when goals are scored,

    and after the final whistle, all of which create intense demands on the


    Volume. In addition to making calls, they also upload photos and

    videos to Social Media sites, watch video replays, make video calls

    and send text messages.

    Grazing. During quiet periods, visitors tend to use their phones to

    graze, i.e. surf the web to pass the time, placing more demands on

    the network.

    Background Data. As smartphones are configured to automatically

    update, download, and get information in the background, they use

    up more capacity on the network.

    Social Media. The popularity of Facebook, Twitter, and other social

    media sites means photos and videos are shared online instantly.

    Business Case. Providing a DAS shared between operators has

    many benefits, such as sharing the systems cost. This reduces the

    burden on a single operator to provide the investment, allowing them

    to channel these funds into other aspects of the project.

    Expectations. Users expect mobile services, especially in high

    profile venues.

    Quality of Service. Prolonged degraded or unavailable service

    results in poor customer experience, particularly at a sporting or

    concert event.

    Brand Perception. As many mobile operators sponsor sports teams

    and events, its crucial that their service is available when their brand

    is on the pitch.

    Customer Experience. Event managers are also aware of the

    importance of mobile data services to the overall experience of

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    attending event. For instance, this includes the desire to share the

    experience in real-time by video calling.

    Event organisers realise that mobile data is a critical service that needs to be

    available to make their event and venue state of the art and reflect positively

    on their brand values.


    In many respects, both Croke Park and the network operator shared

    common goals. Particularly two over-arching goals:

    1. Immediately provide capacity to meet current users needs

    2. Develop a roadmap for capacity growth

    In addition, corporate and hospitality areas which previously lacked sufficient

    coverage needed to be improved.

    One of the dilemmas for the design team was to estimate the projected

    network demands. As mobile data usage increases, especially at stadia and

    live events, it becomes more challenging to define the current capacity

    demand that needs to be serviced.

    For network operators, this means creating realistic projects and allowing

    contingencies for emerging technologies and their associated network

    demands, thereby ensuring there is a sensible upgrade path if and when the

    client needs to change the network configuration.

    Stadium Design

    Following consultation with our strategic partners, Vilicom designed a

    solution that allows Croke Park to capitalize on the existing network

    infrastructure and also provides sufficient flexibility to expand when


    Sectorisation. Multi-sector systems are developed to cover all areas

    for GSM1800 and UMTS2100 though allowing the flexibility for

    operators to feed in only the number of cells they initially require.

    This design allows for further division of cells as traffic growth occurs.

    In addition, as a strategic partner, Vilicom will continually work

    alongside operators and stadium owners to monitor the traffic growth

    and optimise/upgrade the system in parallel as traffic growth


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    Antennas. The choice of antennas to cover the seating area is critical

    to ensure the optimal coverage footprint with minimal overlap (in

    order to reduce interference and control soft handover areas).

    Croke Park Stadium Design

    Due to the excessively long distances (and RF losses) between the base

    station equipment and the antennas for some sectors, RF-to-optical

    conversion was used to connect to remote repeater units. The selected

    repeater provided for a multi-operator, dual band GSM1800 and UMTS2100

    system in one repeater unit, and so simplified the remote units installation

    and configuration.

    Vilicoms Strategic Value

    On this project, Vilicom facilitated and chaired the complex business of

    coordinating the requirements of infrastructure owners, lead operator and

    joining operators. Vilicom provided the technical design, setup the contracts,

    lead the implementation and testing, and thereby project managed the entire

    end-to end process, including management of suppliers.

    Multi-operator stadium systems have the highest demand for technical ability,

    solution innovation, and pragmatism when dealing with complex evolving

    requirements, areas where Vilicom has a proven track record after

    successfully delivering multiple large projects.

    Multi-operator stadium systems have the highest demand for technical ability, solution innovation, and pragmatism.

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    Vilicom also has experience of bringing together the many parties involved in

    such systems: operators, stadium owners and management team, and

    suppliers; co-ordinating varying requirements and interests of the different

    parties, in order to insure a mutually optimal project outcome.

    Business Benefits

    Unlike other projects, where the network design is closely tied into revenue-

    generation opportunities, the Croke Park design was intended to future proof

    the stadium to accommodate anticipated technical demands and also allow

    the opportunity to embrace commercial opportunities where they arise.

    For example, the design now allows the network operators and Croke Park to


    Better quality of service

    Access to mobile networks

    Reflects well on the GAA as a brand

    Superior conference facilities

    Develop products and services with partners

    Positive PR and press coverage

    Higher customer satisfaction

    In addition to this:

    Vilicoms ability to design and manage multi-operator systems

    resulted in significant cost savings per operator.

    Vilicoms partnership approach ensured all requirements were

    captured and an optimal system was designed to give the best value

    for money.

    With the demand for digital devices increasing every year, it has

    become critical for stadia owners to measure performance more

    intensively in order to retain customer loyalty and maintain a

    competitive edge. Improving network experiences reinforce their

    brands value, leading to satisfied customers and positive media


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    Evolving Capacity Requirements

    From the initial to the final design, the system capacity has been doubled,

    twice! This reflects the growing data usage and uptake in smartphones. The

    design was developed in close co-operation with the mobile operators who

    were constantly revising upwards their capacity demand forecasts due to the

    success of the smartphone.

    Of particular note, the systems flexibility and upgradability was of critical

    importance to the operators, and this was taken as a design factor from the


    Building on our contributions to the design phase, Vilicom has been retained

    to provide additional services monitoring the traffic and capacity demands.

    Croke Park strives to provide a greater fan experience to all its visitors. In todays wirelessly

    connected world, our customers want to be able to use their devices not only for voice calls, but

    also for internet browsing and accessing an increasing number of real time applications.

    Vilicom were contracted to ensure the delivery of one of the largest and technically leading edge

    DAS networks in Ireland. Vilicom implemented all the infrastructure requirements to enable

    enhanced mobile connectivity at Croke Park. Vilicoms experience in delivering full Managed

    Services, for what was an extremely challenging and complex project, was invaluable. Vilicom

    was instrumental in the management of all stakeholder requirements, which included continuous

    communication throughout the project with all stakeholders.

    The result has greatly enhanced our visitors experience and made Croke Park a fantastic venue

    to attend.

    Alan Gallagher Head of Stadium Operations, Croke Park

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    Craven Cottage: Fulham FC Craven Cottage has been the home of Fulham F.C. since 1896. After major

    refurbishment work was carried out in 2004, the ground's capacity has

    increased from 22,000 to its current capacity of 25,700.

    As part of our services to the client, we were asked to evaluate the current

    coverage in, and around the stadium.

    Vilicom were asked to provide a detailed design and plan to build a dedicated

    system in the stadium to improve coverage and help with the local capacity

    congestions. Before we look at the proposed design, lets examine the

    underlying issues that faced the management team at Fulham F.C.

    Growing Pains

    The primary issue facing Craven Cottage is that mobile networks struggle to

    maintain good coverage and access to voice and data services in or around

    the stadium during a match due to ever increasing capacity demands.

    Smartphones. This capacity issue has progressively increased with

    the introduction of smartphones. This is not restricted to Fulhams

    stadium, but is also an issue for many other high capacity stadia.

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    Team Usage. A further system demand is that the team uses the

    mobile network for its own communication between staff and

    especially when the owner arrives to a match.

    Suburban Restrictions. This means there are coverage and

    capacity issues not only at the stadium but also in the immediate

    surrounding area, coupled with this, stadium neighbours are sensitive

    to any solutions which require installations at roof area.

    Customer Experience. On match day, cell sites cannot cope with the

    capacity demand and users experince areas and periods without

    access to mobile service. In addition the local users who live in this

    area suffer from lack of service.

    Negative PR. The club wants to improve facilities to corporate

    spectators who sometimes had issues using their smartphones on the

    corporate networks. Its eager to have a reliable communications

    system in place during match day and needs an immediate solution.

    Project Goals

    Vilicom was asked to look at a dedicated solution for the stadium to absorb

    the traffic for all operators. This will help relieve the external network and

    provide improved service to spectators and staff on match days.


    The technical architecture is divided into two parts:

    1. Bowl. Provides dedicated coverage to each of the 4 stands. Only 4

    antenna locations for 3 main stands, and 8 antennas for the Johnny

    Haynes Stand, the protected monument stand.

    2. Internal: Provides enhanced seamless coverage to two stands with

    internal areas and suites as well as dedicated coverage to the main

    cottage which houses the staff and players rooms and lounges.

    There is also a dedicated BTS space to house a minimum of two operators

    equipment and connectivity to the optical master system.

    The following diagram shows the location of roof mounted antennas and

    remote units.

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    This diagram illustrates the consideration of antenna mounting for Johnny

    Haynes the old protected stand.

    The Johnny Haynes stand at Craven Cottage, is a Grade II listed building named after one of Fulham's greatest players Johnny Haynes. One of British footballs outstanding inside-forwards, Johnny Haynes was capped for England on 56 occasions, 22 as captain.

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    Basic Concept

    The basic concept of the network design is as follows:

    The operators base station equipment is connected to an optical

    master unit. This converts the signal to be distributed over several

    fibres to remote repeater units.

    At each remote unit the optical signal is converted back to an RF

    signal and amplified for conventional distribution over a coax cable

    system to the antennas..

    While optical distribution systems are primarily used when RF losses on

    coaxial cable would be excessive, they also simplify many aspects of the

    system design and installaion. Optical systems also provide the technology

    to remotely locate a BTS room from the coverage area (for up to 10


    Project Management Challenges

    At the design stage of the project, options had to be checked with the club in

    order to confirm:

    Equipment locations

    Design aesthetics cable routes

    Future club construction plans to help ease the planning permissions

    with the local authorities with respect to the installation of equipment

    in the protected stand of Johnny Haynes

    The installation planning must work around the clubs world of matches and

    events. Therefore all project work needs to be coordinated around quickly

    changing schedules. Further, the River stand is to be totally renovated and

    as such the system must cope with the upgrade in the near future.

    We also have to take into consideration that there is a very limited amount of

    electrical power available on match days that can be used for a solution; a

    further complication is that one of the stands is a protected building.

    Human Factors

    Craven Cottage stadium is an old building and is considered an historic

    landmark with local residents who are very sensitive to any changes

    proposed to the grounds, stands, or local area.

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    At Craven Cottage we suffered for a long time with poor cellular coverage, either 2G or 3G. In

    recent times, with so many people using smartphones and the necessity of mobile

    communications on match days, it became essential to address this. Thanks to Vilicoms excellent

    work in designing and deploying the stadium solution, we now have great coverage when

    making calls or using web based services.

    The way Vilicom coordinated the project was excellent, we were kept updated on the progress

    and had full confidence in Vilicom to deliver . We are now looking into leveraging the solution

    with new services that benefit the supporters who come to the stadium

    Sean O Loughlin, Fulham FC Financial Director

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    Good Coverage and Capacity in Stadia provide benefits for all the


    The stadium owner benefits from the opportunity to be able to

    generate revenues, for example, via targeted advertising or coverage

    in their conference suites.

    Network Operators increase their customer satisfaction and have the

    opportunity to generate additional revenues.

    Subscribers have a more satisfying, consistent and positive

    experience, in being able to access all the services, that they now

    take for granted and expect to be available wherever they are.

    The explosive growth in data puts a significant strain on the network. In

    particular, video sharing and the popularity of social media, places extreme

    demands on the networks as this type of usage becomes the norm, not the

    exception. As the number of smartphones increase exponentially, the

    stadium solution has to consider a design that will support this growth and

    capacity demand.

    A number of key points have to be considered in high capacity stadia


    To be able to design a stadium solution that is sufficiently robust

    to accommodate the demands and opportunities.

    To be able to coordinate and work with ALL the stakeholders to

    ensure the right design.

    To be able to Project Manage a complex solution deployment


    To have the flexibility and creativity to dynamically address

    changes in stakeholder requirements.

    On large, complex projects of this nature there will always be revisions to the

    original design. New specifications, technical requirements and constraints

    emerge as the project evolves. Each of these changes have to be factored

    into the design.

    One common thread that runs through these projects has been the power of collaboration. For each of the above case studies, all parties had interesting

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    potential and ambitious goalsbut the essential element in actualising the vision is collaboration.

    Whether its Rent, Capital Contribution, Access, Advertising Rights, Network

    Capacity, Satisfaction for your network user, presentation of your brand,

    each stakeholders ambition can be realised, and a greater goal achieved

    through working together.

    If youd like to learn more about how Vilicom delivered these projects and

    what how Vilicom can deliver your projects, please contact our sales team at

    [email protected]

    For further information contact:

    Baldev Gill [email protected] +44-1483-243-591 Stephen Shannon [email protected] +353-1-435-8420

    Vilicom is an expert provider of consultancy services with over ten years of experience in the analysis, design, test and implementation of wireless networks. Vilicoms strengths lie in technology strategy consulting, the planning of cellular networks, transmission network design, implementation of specialised in-building coverage systems and network benchmarking and testing. Vilicom has delivered its services in over 20 countries for network operators, network equipment vendors, industry regulators and investors. Vilicom delivers value for its customers by adopting a flexible, customer-focused approach, retaining cutting-edge expertise and maintaining its independence.

    2012 Vilicom Engineering Ltd.,

    14 Joyce Way, Park West, Dublin 12.


    +353 1 435 8420

    Copyright Vilicom Engineering Ltd

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    Disclaimers The information contained in this document is the proprietary and exclusive

    property of Vilicom except as otherwise indicated. No part of this document,

    in whole or in part, may be reproduced, stored, transmitted, or used for

    design purposes without the prior written permission of Vilicom.

    The information contained in this document is subject to change without


    The information in this document is provided for informational purposes only.

    Vilicom specifically disclaims all warranties, express or limited, including, but

    not limited, to the implied warranties of merchantability and fitness for a

    particular purpose, except as provided for in a separate software license


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