ANSWERS TO OUR MOST FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

About In-Building DAS and

Cellular Enhancement Systems

FIRST, A DEFINITION

DAS stands for distributed antenna system. Distributed Antenna Systems are a very broad classification of technology that points to any system where antennas and cabling are used to disperse RF signal through a building. They can be for cellular enhancement, or to make first responder radios work properly (and meet code) inside buildings. 

THE QUESTIONS

  (Click on any question to be taken directly to the answer)  

THE BASICS

  1. What’s the difference between Cellular DAS and Life Safety DAS

  2. Can I still use my life/safety DAS as the cell enhancement system?   

    • Do I need a life/safety DAS team to look at my building?

  3. What is the difference between active/fiber and passive/over the air network?  

  4. Which do I need, active or passive? 

  5. My building is over 500,000 square feet – will an over the air cell enhancement system work in a building that large? 

  6. Is a cell enhancement system just for voice or also data and text? 

  7. Are these enhancement systems FCC approved?

  8. What should I look for in a properly designed system?

 

THE COST

  1. How much does a cell enhancement system cost?

  2. How do I compare proposals

  3. Will the carriers pay for my system?

  4. Do you offer financing?

 

THE APPEARANCE

  1. How big is the antenna on the outside of the building?

  2. What will it look like?

  3. Can I put it inside the ceiling? 

  4. Can it be painted?

 

THE PROCESS

  1. What is the installation process from start to finish?

  2. How long does it take to install a DAS system

  3. Does Illuminati Labs subcontract design work or installations when a project is out of state?

  4. How do you retrofit without disturbing tenants/residents?

  5. How will I know my signal has improved once the system is up and running?

 

THE FUTURE

  1. How will 5G effect my building’s cell service?

  2. What can I do now to be prepared for 5G?

  3. If I buy cell enhancement today, will it still work in the future?

THE ANSWERS

PLEASE NOTE:  We've tried to make our answers accessible for people of all experience levels. 

If you're interested in more technical details, please CONTACT US!  We'd be happy to geek out with you.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

THE BASICS                   

 

1. What’s the difference between a DAS for cell signal and a life/safety DAS?

Technically, they’re both DAS – Distributed Antenna Systems.  They both take signal from an antenna and distribute it throughout a building.  The difference is more about the end user of the signal.  When people refer to DAS they usually mean life/safety DAS, sometimes called public safety DAS.  This is the system that is in place to guarantee first responders a communication network in the event of an emergency.   When people refer to cellular enhancement they usually mean the system that is in place to provide cell phone service – voice/data/text – for the people living or working in the building.  

These DAS systems are also called:

  • Cellular repeater systems

  • Cell phone repeater systems

  • Cellular enhancement systems OR cellular signal enhancement systems

  • In-building wireless (refers to either cell or WiFi signal)

  • Cell phone boosters

 

2. Can I use my life/safety DAS as the cell enhancement system also?   

It depends. A majority of jurisdictions will require separate systems for cellular DAS and public safety DAS in the property. However, if properly designed and accepted by the local code enforcement, the systems can be combined which saves cost, space and time. 

 

Do I need first responder DAS in my building?

More and more municipalities are rolling out code for first responder DAS (ERRCS). The code will generally state that in buildings of a certain size, the first responders who would report to that building must be able to operate their two-way handsets (So the building must maintain minimum service levels).

We recommend testing the building during construction to determine if a system will be needed. 

 

3. What is the difference between active/fiber and passive/over-the-air network?  

Active DAS: A distributed antenna system where the signal is generated by an independent radio source for the building. This creates an independent/custom solution for the property that is capable of handling large amounts of user traffic while producing the highest output power for devices using the network. 

Active DAS Pros​​

  • Active DAS systems provide a custom network for the building

  • They ensure that there is both capacity and signal inside the property

  • They are future-proofed and upgradeable

  • They are an asset in the building

Active DAS Cons

  • Can be costly and difficult to implement

  • Time to deploy/procure signal source is lengthy

  • Space and backhaul requirements

Passive DAS: A system that uses a network of cabling and antennas to disperse signal throughout the building, but is fed by an antenna on the roof that is leveraging outdoor signal to create better signal inside. 

Passive DAS Pros

  • Passive DAS are carrier-compliant and FCC pre-approve

  • Passive DAS systems can be deployed for all carriers or a carrier subset

  • These systems incur no ongoing contracts or expenses for the building.

  • Passive systems are more cost-effective

 

Passive DAS Cons

  • Passive DAS systems do not create signal- you are limited to the coverage outside the building

  • Passive DAS are not as modular in their future-proofing

 

4. Which system do I need, active or passive?

That depends on your property size, number of users, application, and current environment. Typically this question is answered by understanding the site and the use case of the DAS, and getting on-site to measure the existing coverage levels and choose the best solution. 

Some choices will be clear given hyper-density within the building (Think of sports arenas) and some projects will be more of a choice. 

 

5. My building is over 500,000 square feet – will a cellular enhancement system work in a space that size?

Absolutely. Any of the aforementioned solutions can be scaled up or down to meet the specific needs of the property. We have deployed solutions for 10k square feet and well over 1,000,000 + sq/ft

 

6. Is a cell enhancement system just for voice or also data and text?

The systems will typically support the full range of mobile device functions. 

 

7. Are cellular DAS systems compliant with the FCC.

Proper integrators should always use hardware that is stamped and certified by FCC governing bodies. Compliance within the macro networks is vital as the system can be ripped out otherwise. All of our systems are fully compliant, guaranteed and certified to be completely network safe for the FCC.   See copies of the carriers' approval letters here.

8. What should I look for in a properly designed system? 

There are so many variables to understand, it can be overwhelming!   Here is a short list of questions to ask your integrator that will help you know whether you're getting a well-engineered system that is designed for your facility's specific needs: 

 

  • What measures are being taken for future proofing? Are the passive components capable of supporting other bands? What is the roadmap for the active equipment?

 

  • Is the density of the system consistent and viable? Properly designed systems must hit a critical juncture. They must provide truly 100% comprehensive coverage with enough hardware to cover the building, but properly spaced and engineered so the budgetary costs remain viable. 

  • If a passive system is being recommended- has a full site survey been completed? The integrator must understand the macro environment in addition to the in-building system. They will work in conjunction to ensure the results within the building exceed expectations. 

  • Finally, be sure to check references on jobs similar to yours – same size, same industry.  For instance, if you have a hospital, look for a provider who has successfully worked with a hospital specifically. (See "special hospital considerations" below.) Installing a cellular enhancement system in a 300,000 square foot warehouse is a totally different game than in a 300,000 square foot hospital or hotel or even a co-working office building. Each venue has its own set of extenuating circumstances that must be taken into consideration for the system to function properly. 

THE COST                      

1. How much does a cellular enhancement system cost?

It's a bit of a loaded question, but we feel it is vital to provide a baseline cost. For straightforward with no major caveats, we can the following costs

Passive 2 Carrier Systems

$.60 - .80 / Sq ft.

Passive "All" Carrier Systems 

$.75 - $1.00 / Sq. ft

Active DAS

(Widest range as the inclusion of 5G bands, signal source & type of technology will create massive deltas in the numbers)

$1.10 - $2.00 / sq ft

Other factors that can influence price

  • The availability of cell signal outside

  • Whether the ceiling is a hard lid or lift tile ceiling  

  • The layout of building

  • Whether there are cement cores in place between floors

 

2. I received several vastly different cost estimates for my Cell DAS System.  How can I make an apples to apples comparison of the proposals?

Deciphering a proposal full of dBs, ohms, amplifier specs and such can be an exercise in frustration.  Especially when the price of one proposal is dramatically different from the other.  How do you know which one is best for your building? To begin a rough comparison, understand if the system is passive vs. active DAS, the type of technology being used, the guaranteed signal levels, and the upgrade paths/monitoring contracts etc that are included. We can always review proposals that have pricing and company names redacted.

 

3. Will the carriers pay for my system?

During the initial introduction of cellular DAS to the general public, carriers had a goal of covering buildings throughout major cities with in-building cellular service. As the costs rose on these deployments and carriers devoted more attention to their macro networks, the funds for in-building systems as provided by cell carriers began to dry up. It is still commonly seen in stadiums, transit depots and the largest hotels throughout the US, but many other buildings no longer draw carrier interest. This has created a gap where building owners who never budgeted for DAS are suddenly forced to confront the costs for venue-owned DAS. We have developed approaches and financing solutions to mitigate these issues. 

4. Do you offer financing?

Yes we do.   Contact us here for details.

 

 

THE APPEARANCE        

 

1. How big is the antenna on the outside of the building?

Surprisingly, the omni-directional rooftop antennas are small discrete devices that are not visible from street level.

 

2. Will the interior antennas be distracting/ugly/large

The interior antennas are low-profile, discrete, and typically will barely be noticeable to people in the building. 

 
 
 
 
ElizabethRestaurantDome.jpg

It's just to the right of the yellow light fixture on the far left! 

 Can you spot the antenna in this cafe?

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

3. Can the interior antennas go up inside the ceiling instead of on the ceiling?   

Yes, we can put it inside the ceiling but we’d need to plan for a denser population of antennas if you go that route, so please notify us at the beginning of the design.   

 

4. Can the antennas be painted?  

Yes it can be painted to match ceiling color.   

 

THE PROCESS               

 

1. What is the cell phone enhancement installation process from start to finish?

  1. Consultation:  we’ll discuss your coverage problems/concerns and review your architectural plans to determine whether or not a site survey is required.  If it is, we come to your site and take readings of available signal strength inside & outside the property.   

  2. Survey:  We complete our survey by using a PCTel SeeHawk which is widely recognized as the most accurate and reliable test equipment for RF on the market. This survey will show what carriers and areas the signal is deficient for in the buidling.

  3. Proposal:  We compile all the information on your site, including your budget, to create a proposed solution that will deliver the most bang for your buck.

  4. Order:  Once the proposal is approved and signed, we accept a 50% deposit and order the equipment.

  5. Schedule:  At proposal signing, we contact your GC and/or ownership to coordinate schedules.

  6. Installation:  We wire and install your system according to schedule.  llluminati Labs strives to make our installations as seamless as possible. With no hyperbole, our teams believe in being the best on-site integrator you have ever worked with. Period. 

  7. Commission:  This is the exciting part where we ensure that the system is balanced and works flawlessly. 

  8. Report:  We create another heat map, similar to our initial survey. This mapping will show us the delta between the initial survey and the survey with a functioning cellular system.

  9. Next Site: We work closely with partners to help them on any subsequent projects, always working to make our project integration seamlessly worked into the construction process.

 

2. How long does it take to install a cellular enhancement system?  

The time from consultation to finished installation depends mostly on your property’s construction schedule plus several other factors such as how accessible the site will be and will we be running through conduit.  When we give you our proposal, we can give you a fairly accurate estimation of time. 

 

3. Does Illuminati Labs subcontract design work or installations when a project is out of state?

Our work is performed by our own W2 employees.

 

4. How do you do retrofit without disturbing tenants/residents? 

Ideally, we like to be installing the in-building cell system during the construction phase but that isn’t always possible for a variety of reasons.    When a client needs a cellular enhancement system in a “live” building full of tenants, workers, patients or guests, we do whatever is necessary to be quiet and unobtrusive.  This means we sometimes work at night, we clean up each work area before moving on to the next and we are as flexible and accommodating as possible. We’ve worked in fully booked hotels (see How to Be Accommodating Between Hurricanes) , offices packed with workers (see our Facebook project), apartments and hospitals.  

  • Special hospital considerations:  Hospitals pose an especially tricky challenge because for sterility purposes, we are only allowed to have one open ceiling tile at a time and we usually have to use a “birdcage” -- a containment unit which keeps contamination to a minimum.  Staying out of the way in a busy ER means being ready to literally drop everything and leave at a second’s notice then come back and pick up where we left off. 

 

THE FUTURE               

1. How will 5G effect my building’s cell coverage?

Your current cell service will not be affected; if you have great 4G now the arrival of 5G will not change that.  Even better, 5G will add drastically improved data speeds -- up to 100 times faster broadband –- plus “smart” networks that can evolve with your growing Internet of Things (IoT) demands.  The catch is that before you can enjoy all that, you’ll have to bring the 5G into your building from outside with a cell enhancement system.    

 

Despite the hype being advertised by the big phone carriers, true 5G for the public is still several years away. However, building owners and managers are wise to get prepared for 5G today.   Prepping now will mean saving money, saving time and not experiencing any cell coverage losses when 5G is actually deployed large scale.  Read the details about 5G and answers to the most common 5G questions here.

2. What can I do now to be prepared for 5G?

Building owners don't need to wait for fully mature 5G to install a cell enhancement system. The systems Illuminati Labs use today allow us to deploy infrastructure that provides the foundation for 5G and private LTE networks as well as immediately broadcasting state-of-the-art 4G, 4G LTE and 4G LTE enhanced networks.  

3. If I buy enhancement today will it still work in the future?  

Having a cellular enhancement system for your building's 4G and 4G LTE networks already provides significantly better cell coverage today.  And a properly engineered and deployed system will continue to work now and into the future.