What is a Distributed Antenna System?
A Distributed Antenna System or ‘DAS’ is a system that has been installed in a facility or campus to distribute radio frequency signals from cellular, two way radio and critical messaging providers from a central point (the ‘head end’) to remote antennas inside the facility.
An example of a typical DAS installation:
Why install a DAS?
As smartphones and tablets are more and more common in the workplace (the BYOD trend), companies want to ensure adequate in-building coverage and capacity for their employees to remain productive and competitive.
There are many benefits to investing in a DAS:
- Coverage is assured throughout an organization’s facility or campus
- Capacity. Ensure adequate capacity for the growing data requirements of todays smartphones & tablets
- Security. A properly designed DAS will have separate channels and amplifiers for Public Safety Radios and Critical Messaging, therefore any incidents that cause the cellular system to overload will not affect public safety.
- Employee Efficiency is improved with ability to use their business tools reliably.
- Healthcare. The main drivers for DAS in Healthcare are the increasing use of smartphones & tablets fuelled by (and because of – a virtuous circle) the introduction of M-Health apps facilitating real time, ‘on the spot’ updates, imaging as well as direct input of medical orders for exams, pharma, imaging, etc.
- Entertainment. Often, venues (Stadiums, concert halls, malls, airports, etc) have high concentrations of users accessing the network simultaneously, causing degraded service, dropped calls and even creating a public safety risk factor
- Education. In higher education campuses, the concentration of students is compounded by parents wanting instant access to their children and the demographically higher usage of wireless by students (primary mode of communication)
- Landlords and Property Management firms are starting to include DAS in leasehold improvement plans as a means to differentiate their property and to create an additional revenue stream from a “Fourth Utility”.
- In hospitality, travellers expect to have reliable coverage to stay in touch with their office, their clients and most importantly, their family. A quote from the recent Wireless Infrastructure Conference states it well:“A meeting planner that books a conference at a hotel with poor cellular coverage will only make that mistake once…” The DAS Forum
How is a DAS installed?
There are 4 key phases to a DAS installation. Genwave Technologies, as a Total System Integrator and has the highly trained engineering and operations team to deliver the solution – on spec, on time & on budget.
Engineering & Design Phase
There are many factors to consider in the design of a DAS:
- Customer requirements
- Size & nature of facility (low & broad or narrow & tall)
- Building materials
- Purpose – Cellular, Public Safety Two Way Radio or Wireless LAN. Or a combination.
- Approach – Active DAS or Passive DAS
- Location or methodology of donor signal(s)
- Sources of potential interference or RF noise
- Engage carriers in early discussions to identify specific necessities
- And much, much more!
Once the Client’s spec is finalized, the engineering design team goes to work to finalize predictions of coverage, installation plan and choose the optimal components.
Once the specification and requirements are finalized, Genwave Technologies will work with the local Carriers to integrate the appropriate signals into the final DAS.
Genwave Technologies installers are highly trained, fully safety certified and expert at DAS and WLAN installations. Our team will perform a professional installation (outside of standard business hours if required), testing each run and component as well as capturing key information to support the As Built documentation at the end of the project.
Once the system is installed and energized, a critically important process is performed – the system optimization. This ensures that capacity and coverage are balanced as well as throughput speeds being nominal. Any sources of interference, including Passive Intermodulation (PIM), Active Intermodulation (AIM) or external sources are identified and resolved. Once complete, the system is commissioned into service.
Genwave Technologies uses remote monitoring tools to provide visibility of the health of the system 24/7, perform preventative maintenance, restoral of service for any outages and ensure that firmware upgrades are tested and implemented on schedule. All system work is tracked on tickets which our customers can create, view updates and run reports on performance metrics.
There are three main ownership models for DAS installations:
In this model, the primary carrier (contracted cellular or radio network operator) will fund, operate and own the DAS. Typically, there is a prime carrier, although it is becoming more common for a shared cost or consortium approach to facilitate multiple carriers. Often designed, installed and supported by a DAS system integrator.
With the Neutral Host model, DAS Aggregator will fund the design, build and operation of the DAS while leasing access to multiple carriers.
In this scenario, the facility owner will fund the design, build and ongoing management, however the right system integrator may also bring carriers to the table to provide partial funding in consideration for the increased units or traffic. In this model, it is not uncommon to see an exclusive carrier arrangement.
- DAS installations exceeded $2billion in the US last year and are growing at an average of 26% per year. (Source: ABI Research)
- Research shows that 80+% of calls and data traffic are made from inside buildings (source: iBWave 2012).
- There are now 26.5 million handsets in Canada (Source: Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association).
- Smart phones (including cellular equipped tablets) now make up 54% of cellular phones, up from 36% in June 2011 (Source: CommScope Jan 2012)
- Cisco prepares an annual report which monitors the development of mobile broadband and their report projects data traffic growth at a CAGR of 78% from 2011 to 2016, (Source: Cisco Visual Networking Index: Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update, 2011–2016)
- We are also beginning to see a growing trend for municipalities to mandate DAS installations to ensure Public Safety operability in new facilities.
As we mentioned at the start of this primer, we’re seeing that larger institutions are no longer questioning if they will install a DAS, they are grappling with how and who. Questions that we’ve tried to provide an overview in this section. If your organization is beginning a fact finding process or looking for a DAS System Integrator, please consider giving us a call. We’d be happy to meet to discuss your requirements.