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January 18

COMPARING WIFI, SMALL CELL, AND DAS IN-BUILDING SOLUTIONS

Can you imagine looking for a new job because you can’t get a decent cell signal in your office? Don’t laugh – it’s a very real problem many employers face as the explosion in cellular connectivity has made smartphones and tablets indispensable in our personal and professional lives. In fact, a Zinwave study found that spotty mobile coverage is a large source of frustration that can impact workers’ productivity – it can even make or break their decision to stay with a company. Another Zinwave study found that cell phones are second only to email as the preferred method of office communication.

Clearly, there is an urgent need for businesses and building owners to ensure reliable in-building connectivity to support the growing numbers of employees who use mobile devices to do business – and who expect always-on, reliable indoor signals. So what’s a company to do? Luckily, there are multiple options to improve connectivity – but they each come with pros and cons. Here’s a few:

Voice over Wi-Fi – Everyone knows what Wi-Fi is. You might be using it right now! So for some businesses, it might make sense to use voice over Wi-Fi. It’s especially useful in smaller environments, with smaller workforces. But buyer beware: it’s not a business-class solution. Wi-Fi networks can drop calls and they won’t automatically hand-off calls to cellular networks. They’re also susceptible to interference and getting bogged down by someone else on the network downloading a large file.

Small Cells – Relatively inexpensive low-powered radio access nodes that can be placed throughout a building, small cells are a business-grade solution that support licenses on cellular frequencies. They connect directly to the cellular operator’s core switching network, so they produce a strong, reliable signal. But – and there’s always a but – they are not ideal for multi-carrier, multi-frequency environments – like BYOD workplaces. Also, if using more than one carrier, you’ll need more small cells, leading to costlier installations. However, if you’re in a building that is 150,000 square feet or smaller and are OK on relying on a single carrier and a few frequencies, small cells could work for you.

Distributed Antenna System (DAS) – Consisting of amplifiers and antennas distributed throughout a building using fiber, CAT 5/6 or coaxial cables, DAS systems are enterprise-grade solutions that produce strong, reliable connectivity while supporting multiple carriers and frequencies. DAS solutions ensure a strong signal by connecting the building’s antennas to a central distribution hub that in turn connects to the radio frequency source from mobile carriers. They are ideal for building owners looking for a scalable solution that can grow with usage needs while ensuring lower cost of ownership and the ability to use all available frequencies. However, if you’re running a small space, it could be overkill.

So what’s the best solution?

DAS could be for you. The optimal DAS solution should have three key features: 

  • Full Spectrum: Make sure your DAS solution supports all cellular and public safety frequencies between 150MHz to 2700MHz on a single hardware layer. It eliminates the need for multiple hardware layers when trying to accommodate multiple frequencies.

  • Future Ready: Ensure your system is future ready by being able to accept new frequencies as they become available without the need to add more hardware. Being future ready will also help lower the total cost of ownership since it will be ready to meet future mobile connectivity needs from the time it’s installed.

  • Fiber Based: Many buildings today have fiber cabling throughout, making a fiber-based DAS system more affordable, easier to install and more reliable.

Download Zinwave’s eBook, Comparing In-Building Wireless Solutions, for a deeper dive into the solutions above. And stay tuned for our upcoming eBook on understanding the wide range of DAS technology and what to look for when selecting your ideal DAS partner.


 

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