Azteca Food Services Plant Improves Cellular Coverage with Cel-Fi

Summary

Challenge

  • Food manufacturer experienced drops in cellular signal in a 58,000 sq. ft. production area with 30 ft. ceilings
  • Older, previously installed network extenders were failing
  • Plant management and supervisors were frustrated and unable to remain in constant communication due to dropped calls

Solution

  • Cel-Fi QUATRA

Results

  • Significant cellular coverage improvements for Verizon
  • Did not have to replace the entire system
  • Easy, quick install

The Challenge

Azteca Foods offers a fresh, high quality line of traditional Mexican foods including flour tortillas and 100% whole kernel ground corn tortilla chips. The family-owned, multi-channel business operates in a 125,000 square foot, state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Chicago, IL. The brick building was expanded over the years with additional outside walls being added. This construction blocked the cellular signal from entering the facility. Azteca had installed five network extenders throughout the warehouse and production area but they were failing.

“The part of our building that would drop the cellular signal was where we have three tortilla lines running,” explains Nannette Zander, Vice President of Information Technology at Azteca Foods. “Our supervisors, maintenance manager, plant manager, and QA department rely on company provided cellphones to communicate, but they were dropping calls and losing signal and would have to walk away from a machine they were working on to get cellular coverage. We needed to fix that.”

KonectaUSA, a leading commercial in-building installation and service provider in North America, was called in to help Azteca Foods rectify its cellular coverage challenges in the production and manufacturing area.

The Solution

The team from KonectaUSA did a thorough evaluation of the plant to figure out where the coverage shortfalls were, and then designed a solution to ensure there was cellular coverage where it was needed. KonectaUSA focused on the tortilla production area where the gaps in coverage were predominant. Its solution featured Cel-Fi QUATRA, an active DAS hybrid that delivers uniform in-building cellular coverage.

Cel-Fi QUATRA specifically addresses the challenges of poor voice quality, dropped calls, and dead zones in large commercial buildings. Unlike analog boosters and passive DAS systems, QUATRA delivers a cellular signal that is up to 1000x stronger, offering a much larger coverage footprint. QUATRA uses CAT 5e cabling with Power over Ethernet, so there is no need to install additional power outlets for the internal remote antennas.

KonectaUSA installed two Cel-Fi QUATRA Network Units (NUs) — the head end of the system — in the production area. The NUs support Verizon, the only carrier used by Azteca, and they enhance the outdoor signals for the carrier and digitally re-transmit it with zero signal loss
via Cat 5e cables to 8 QUATRA Coverage Units (CUs) — which are the remote internal antennas. The CUs were installed in the production, storage, and dock areas with lifts being used by KonectaUSA to install the units on the 30-foot ceilings.

According to Zander, the Cel-Fi QUATRA installation was pretty straightforward and easy. “KonectaUSA came in and they measured the plant and figured out all the spots where we needed coverage. We pulled all of the Cat5 or Cat6 cable to the areas that needed it. They ordered all
the equipment and brought it in and hooked it up. It was a great experience,” she adds.

The Results

A three-person team from KonectaUSA installed the Cel-Fi QUATRA system in two days using the Cel-Fi WAVE cloud-based platform and apps that optimize the installation of QUATRA systems and enable system monitoring. “WAVE makes all the difference in installation by making it smoother and so efficient,” says Mike Shortridge, Partner at KonectaUSA. “The application looked at the system and saw we had it configured to use the internal antennas rather than the external ones. We flipped the switch and the system instantly went live. WAVE makes it so easy for installers and takes the guess work out of antenna positioning.”

The target area initially identified for cellular coverage improvements was 20,000 square feet; but following the installation, Azteca now has reliable, consistent cellular coverage for Verizon throughout a 58,000 square foot space. “Before, I was constantly hearing things like “How come I keep dropping my call? Why can’t I stay on the phone? Why can’t I get coverage here?” But I haven’t had any complaints and I’m happy about that,” says Zander.

I’ve addressed cellular coverage problems two ways now. I’ve used network extenders and I’ve gone with the antenna solution, and the antenna solution should be a permanent solution. I know that we had to put Cel-Fi QUATRA equipment throughout the plant, just like we did with the network extenders, but it’s up in the ceiling and it provides very good coverage so I’m not going to have to worry about always checking on them and trying to replace them. It is a permanent solution.

Nannette Zander, Vice President of Information Technology at Azteca Foods

Contact us today to help with your Cellular Coverage Problems

This Cel-Fi installation was undertaken by our partners, in which Cel-Fi has a global footprint in almost 100 countries. For a referral to a local expert in your area, please contact us via phone or email.

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