Everyone and everything seem to be connected to the internet these days. This means a strong wireless “Wi-Fi” network is more important now than ever. Learn the basics of these systems in a quick 5 to 7-minute read. This blog post provides a quick overview of in-building wireless solutions.

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In a time when everyone and everything is connected to the internet, strong, reliable in-building wireless solutions have become vital. What is in-building wireless (IBW)? In a nutshell, IBW provides cellular service to an entire building without users needing to manually connect or log-into the building’s network. What happens without IBW? Larger buildings—such as hotels, conference centers, sporting arenas, and shopping malls—that lack sophisticated IBW solutions often result in frustrated guests, frazzled attendees, and irritated customers experiencing “dead zones” or incredibly slow internet connectivity. Cellular networks rely on radio frequencies (RF) to transmit information between cell towers and individual cell phones. However, RF has difficulty penetrating modern building materials such as high-efficiency windows and concrete walls. An IBW solution can solve this problem by bringing the cellular connectivity into the building in the form of a distributed antennae system (DAS).

WHAT IS CELLULAR DAS?

A cellular DAS is a network of antennae spaced throughout a building that send and receive cellular data like a cell tower. A DAS is comprised of a signal source, distribution system, and antennae in the building. The signal source receives and transmits signals from a cellular carrier. This process can be completed using a few different technologies, but the most common signal source is a roof-mount donor antenna. The distribution system takes the signal from the source and rebroadcasts it throughout the building.

The three main types of distribution systems are Passive DASActive DAS, and Hybrid DAS. Passive DAS uses coaxial cabling (think connecting your cable box to the wall), splitters, and taps to distribute the signal to antennae in the building. Passive DAS is more cost effective since it is easier to maintain and requires less equipment than an Active DAS. The downsideS of a Passive DAS are longer cable runs that have signal attenuation or signal loss and precise calculations that are needed to ensure all antennae have an equal power output.

An Active DAS system uses a central unit to convert the analog signal from the signal source into a digital signal. Then, the digital signal is sent throughout the building using fiber optic or ethernet cables until it reaches a remote repeater unit (RRU) which converts the signal back to analog. In an Active DAS solution, the RRU functions as the antenna and there are multiple units placed throughout the building. The advantage of Active DAS is using fiber optic and ethernet cabling, which has virtually no limits on the length of cable run and allows for easy system expansion. A drawback of Active DAS is the cost; the equipment required is more expensive and requires dedicated power, unlike Passive DAS. The third type of distribution is Hybrid DAS, which combines the advantages of Passive and Active DAS and utilizes fiber optic and coaxial cabling along with separate RRUs and antennae.

The different types of DAS and the different architectures of the system allows providing DAS to a building a customizable process. Some important items to consider when designing a DAS for a building are the size and scale of the building, the amount of network users anticipated, and the different cellular providers’ signal needed (Verizon, T-Mobile, etc.).

WHY IS DAS IMPORTANT?

As technology devices upgrade and network capacity requirements increase, an in-building wireless solution becomes vital. A distributed antenna system can bring increased connectivity to the users and alleviate the stress on a building’s wireless internet, or “Wi-Fi”. In a large, multi-level venue such as a hotel, conference center, or mixed-use office building, people traverse through the space using individual cellular devices or laptops. Without a DAS, users can strain and slow down the building’s Wi-Fi network. Users’ constant streaming, emailing, video calling, and texting can significantly drain the bandwidth available on the network, resulting in slower internet connectivity and dissatisfaction for all users. Additionally, as a user moves across a space, their Wi-Fi connectivity pings different wireless access points that may require a new log-in or cause a momentary pause in connectivity as the nearest access point connects to the device.

Employing a DAS in the building ensures occupants have access to the cellular connectivity they are accustomed to everywhere else. Transient users can email, call, and browse the web using personal devices with ease, while permanent users of the space can readily connect to computers, tablets, and other devices without sacrificing Wi-Fi speed or a slow-down from transient users. A properly designed DAS creates a building wireless environment that is conducive to today’s wireless connectivity demands with enhanced user experience, and simple access for all.

INTRIGUED BY DAS FOR YOUR BUILDING?

Let BG’s technical experts work with you and your team to help navigate an optimal in-building wireless solution on your next project.

AUTHOR’S NOTE:

After an unprecedented year full of changes, challenges, and uncertainty due to COVID-19, there is hope on the horizon. Once protocols ease and are eventually lifted, many people will strategically, yet cautiously decide to return to larger gathering spaces and relative normality. Easing visitors’ potential anxieties about formerly innocuous common places will be important after significant time spent social distancing and working from home. It is not only vital to have a physically safe place, but also a place poised to provide a dose of emotional comfort that improved technology can offer.

As we move into the future, the need for high-speed network connectivity in spaces will continue to increase, making In-Building Wireless solutions attractive. Not only has the number of internet-connected devices increased, the internet capabilities of those devices have also expanded, with people using devices for a multitude of activities. With 2020’s extraordinary reliance on teleconferencing across the world, the ability to virtually collaborate, discuss, and meet from anywhere is likely going to continue growing in coming years. – JEB

Sources

  1. CommScope. “In-Building Wireless Best Practices.” Hickory, N.C.: CommScope Inc., 2017.
  2. “Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS): The Definitive Guide [2020].” Accessed October 20, 2020. https://www.waveform.com/pages/das-distributed-antenna-systems
  3. Higgins, Michelle. “The Cellphone Imperative: If I Can’t Text, I’m Moving.” New York Times, October 9, 2015. https://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/11/realestate/the-cellphone-imperative-if-i-cant-text-im-moving.html
  4. “How a DAS Ensures Signal in LEED Buildings with Low-E Glass.” Accessed October 15, 2020. https://www.waveform.com/pages/das-in-leed-buildings-with-low-e-glass
  5. WilsonPro. “The Ultimate Guide to Distributed Antenna Systems,” January 9, 2020. https://www.wilsonpro.com/blog/the-ultimate-guide-to-distributed-antenna-systems