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June 01

Your Distributed Antenna System Needs to be All Band, Not Just Wide Band

Your distributed antenna system needs to be all band, not just wide band.

Pay attention to any of the marketing around distributed antenna systems and there’s a phrase you’ll see often: Wide band.

It’s a smart pair of words to use. No one wants to make a large investment, like the kind you make in a distributed antenna system, and then have that system require expensive upgrades if you want to add support for new frequencies or wireless operators. So, by saying “Our system is wide band,” the buyer gets the reassurance that their DAS is going to be able to handle all of the frequency bands that the major carriers use – both now and in the future. Here’s what they don’t get, though. They don’t get the rest of the sentence, and it probably goes something like this: “… with an additional investment.”

Adding frequencies traditionally means adding hardware

When we talk about additional investments regarding DAS, what do we mean? A quick primer. Most distributed antenna systems work by amplifying a very specific cellular “band” or set of frequencies. So, since specific cellular carriers operate in specific frequencies, you have to decide which bands you want to boost when you install a DAS. Pick one carrier or two carriers and your DAS provider will include support for only those frequencies, as each set of frequencies requires specific hardware. Want to add a third carrier? You’ll need to buy the equipment that allows your DAS to access and amplify those frequencies. Add a fourth? More equipment still. And there may be additional cabling requirements as well.

So, yes, that new DAS is able to handle new carriers. It is wide band in a technical sense. But, is it all band? No.

An all-band DAS gives you access to tomorrow’s technologies

What is all band? It’s a system that has the flexibility to handle not only today’s carriers and frequencies, but new carriers and new technologies out of the box as well. There’s minimal additional investment needed to bring on new capabilities. Because of the nature of radio waves, a few tweaks to engineering may be needed to optimize coverage as new frequencies are brought on, but there’s not a need for a major new investment just to get support for those frequencies.

That’s important because the world is changing quickly. There’s an expectation of connectivity. In a recent survey, we asked 1,000 U.S. workers if they ever experienced problems getting a cellular signal at the office. Nearly three-quarters of the respondents said yes. And millennial employees, the employees that will be the dominant forces in your office or building within the next five years, were 68 percent more likely to complain about connectivity issues than older coworkers.

These employees are going to not just expect wireless connectivity; they are going to demand it. They are going to work and play at the places where they can get it. That means that you are going to have to ensure it. And, yes, it’s going to be up to you.

Until a few years ago, carriers made the investment in distributed antenna systems to support amplified indoor cellular signals. Today, though, with the increasing dependence on all things wireless and rapid technology changes, they are working hard just to keep pace in their outdoor networks. They don’t have money or time to worry about connectivity indoors. It’s now your challenge to handle. But, that’s OK. This is an infrastructure you want to own, because as many of tomorrow’s technologies become realities, they are going to need a distributed antenna system to communicate.

These are technologies like the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications, and location-based services that allow retailers to track shopper movements and push messages to them depending on where they are located in the store. And that’s the real reason that any DAS solution needs to be all band. Things are going to move fast. They already are. You have to be ready. When new technologies come online, you don’t want to be stuck. You want to be able to use them quickly and easily, without a lot of added cost. And with a DAS that’s all band, you can.

All band means lower total cost of ownership long term

It’s these all band capabilities that can keep the total cost of ownership for a DAS system low. Too often, when the cost of a DAS is figured, there are things forgotten. Or, if not forgotten, they are estimated low. People can often misestimate the amount of cabling needed. Or misjudge how long it will take to actually run the cabling needed. And one thing that’s almost never considered is additional hardware that may be required as additional frequencies are needed. So, that quote you receive may look enticing, but is it accurate? If the DAS you’re considering isn’t all band then probably not.

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