There are several solutions to solving the problem of getting a stronger cellular signal in your office. Small cells can give you improved indoor cellular connectivity. So can repeaters. And if connectivity is all you’re looking for then you’re set. But if you are looking for more than connectivity, then there’s still a discussion to be had, and it starts with a question: Which indoor cellular connectivity solution is future-ready?
Let’s not drag this out. Small cells aren’t. Neither are repeaters. Both can solve an immediate problem. Need to boost the signal for a specific carrier so those corporate cell phones you pay for can actually be used in your corporate offices? A small cell will do that. So will a repeater. What neither small cells nor repeaters will do is boost more than one carrier’s signal. It can’t be accomplished without a significant additional investment in hardware, essentially buying a whole other system for the new frequencies. They are good for today, but they aren’t ready for tomorrow.
The truth is most distributed antenna systems—another in-building wireless solution option—have the same issue. You wouldn’t know it, though, because many solutions are advertised as being future proof. They claim that they can handle whatever frequencies you need today, as well as your needs for tomorrow. They can, but again, it comes with additional investment.
With most distributed antenna systems, you choose the carrier or frequencies that you want to amplify and the hardware installed will only support those frequencies. Want to support new frequencies next week, next month, or next year? You need additional hardware, and you’ll probably need additional system engineering.
So are these DAS solutions future proof? In a way. Your initial investment isn’t wasted, even though adding new frequencies or capabilities isn’t easy or cheap. And that means these DAS aren’t truly future ready.
What does a future-ready DAS look like?
A future-ready in-building wireless solution is distinguished by two things.
It is engineered with future uses in mind. One of the things that will limit most distributed antenna systems when they are initially installed is the system design and engineering. Many DAS providers will engineer the system—where you need to install the antennas based on the frequencies you want to amplify—according to your needs today. The smarter play though, and the one that makes a system not just future proof but future ready, is to engineer thinking about tomorrow. Today, you need to boost the signal of two carriers. But a year from now, will you need to add a third? Or is your business already exploring the possibility of IoT technologies in the next few years? If the answer to either of those is yes, then it makes more sense to engineer a DAS with that in mind, and the right DAS provider will do that without being asked. It will recognize that while it may mean a bit larger upfront cost, it puts you in a better position for tomorrow. When you’re ready to support new frequencies it requires little more than a bit of fine tuning of the hardware already in place. You aren’t being asked to make an additional investment.
It allows you to add new frequencies without additional investment. First, a future-ready DAS will have access to new carriers and new frequencies without the need for additional investment in hardware. Out of the box a future-ready DAS will be able to amplify all the major public safety and cellular frequencies in use.
That’s important because the need for connectivity is changing. Younger employees already expect it, and when they don’t get it they are no longer blaming the carrier. They blame the building owner. It’s not going to be long before connectivity will become a factor in decision making. These younger employees won’t work for employers that can’t provide a reliable signal. They won’t visit hotels, restaurants, or shopping establishments that haven’t made connectivity a priority.
Additionally, capabilities are either online now or coming online soon that are going to require reliable access to new frequencies if you want to take advantage of them. Things like location services in shopping centers that allow retailers to push advertisements to shoppers as they approach their store front. Or Internet of Things and M2M technologies that are going to allow businesses to operate smarter. Or 5G cellular capabilities that are going to become more and more necessary as we continue to shift our cellular usage habits away from voice and towards data.
Future proof sounds good. It sounds reassuring, but don’t be fooled. There’s a difference between future proof and future ready. And not knowing that difference could cost you well above your initial investment.