Unlocking Better Coverage: The Essentials of Cellular EnhancementRead Story
by Alexander Goge
Converged wireless solutions can save you heaps of money, future-proof a vital part of your technological infrastructure and allow you to feel good about providing every option for the people living and working in your building – all while delivering the very thing they most request. If that sounds like a win, then a converged wireless solution may be the right choice for you.
Exactly what is this magical money-saving, forward-thinking process that will improve your building’s safety and make your residents or tenants happy? A converged wireless solution is a method of using the cabling and antennas from your Code-required public safety DAS (Distributed Antenna System), as the backbone for integrating your cellular DAS system as well. As cited in Forbes’ The Case for Converged Wireless Solutions, the International Association of Fire Chiefs and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security showcased the advantages of combining public safety DAS — also known as ERRCS (Emergency Responder Radio Communications System) — with commercial cellular DAS systems and concluded this integration led to enhanced in-building coverage, minimizing communication dead zones and significantly improving communication capabilities during emergencies.
More and more state and local governments are requiring commercial buildings, new construction and existing buildings alike, to install a public safety ERRCS to strengthen the first responders’ dedicated radio network. In fact, in most cases, an ERRCS installation is mandatory for building owners to obtain a certificate of occupancy.
At the same time, the building’s residents, guests, and workers are clamoring for more reliable cell coverage of their own. Fun Fact: reliable cell service is the #1 most requested amenity in multifamily buildings, with more than 90% of respondents saying they won’t rent without it.
This means property owners are not only faced with the expense of adding a mandatory ERRCS to meet Code but also a cellular enhancement system to keep occupants living and working happily. Clearly, finding a cost-effective solution to deploying both systems is a top priority – and why a converged solution makes so much sense.
By using the same cabling, antennas and infrastructure for both the public safety DAS, and the Cellular DAS, converged DAS systems can save up to 40% versus installing the two systems separately. (See Case Study sidebar).
Ideally, you’ll see the greatest savings when a qualified integrator like Illuminati Labs is involved right from the beginning to design and install both systems simultaneously. This also allows developers and owners to use a crucial component of public safety as leverage to obtain a valuable building upgrade. Integrating the cellular repeater system right from the start is a quick and painless way of getting far more bang for your buck.
Almost every emergency response starts with a phone call to 911; and more than 80% of those calls come from a cell phone. It’s not enough to provide a dedicated communication network for first responders at your property if there’s no way for residents or workers to call fire and police to your property in the first place. During an emergency, people inside the building will need to communicate with first responders — they may need to update medical conditions or report the changing location of an active shooter. This makes dependable cellular coverage the linchpin of your building’s safety protocol. Providing secure, dependable access to 911 for everyone on your property is simply the right thing to do and grants everybody peace of mind. Bonus: your ERRCS system may even function better once it’s converged with your cellular DAS!
Today, not every building needs an ERRCS or cellular enhancement system. Illuminati Labs’ extensive cell signal testing has found a few rare unicorns who can get by with the cell and public safety signals that penetrate their building naturally – for now. However, as 5G technology rolls out across the country, having a reliable cellular repeater system will be essential to virtually every building. That’s because 5G frequencies are more easily impacted and blocked by building materials, foliage, and even rain, so 5G will produce worse indoor coverage than current cell signal.
By installing a converged ERRCS and cellular DAS system now, your property will get significant cost savings as compared to waiting to install separate systems later. You’ll also gain a future-proofed infrastructure that is highly adaptable and built with an intentional focus on the emerging cellular technologies of the next decade+.
In new construction, the local AHJ (the officials responsible for authorizing alarm and public safety systems) will need to approve our installation and merging the two systems. Some AHJs aren’t yet familiar with converged wireless systems and may be reluctant to give consent until they have a better understanding of how we design and implement these solutions to be 100% network safe.
As one of the premier companies in the country to deploy converged wireless systems, at the forefront of this process, we have found that once we establish that our converged systems are a part of FirstNet and will even enhance FirstNet capabilities, AHJs and first responder teams usually become keen supporters. (One fire marshal even told us it made his life easier by helping “take the sting” out of requiring an ERRCS).
If your building already has a public safety DAS, Illuminati Labs may still be able to retrofit a converged cellular DAS, but we will need to make a few design adjustments, such as increasing the antenna density to meet the higher frequency cellular needs. You’ll still see significant cost savings as compared to installing two separate systems.