CONVERGED WIRELESS SOLUTIONS DELIVER EXCELLENT COST SAVINGS, FUTURE-PROOFING, AND INCREASED SAFETYRead Story
by Xan Rubey
In today’s connected world, seamless cellular connectivity has become a universal necessity. People expect and rely on connectivity everywhere — whether they are indoors or outdoors, in a small midwestern town or a densely packed borough of the Big Apple.
While the need for proper cell connectivity has continued to grow (and the demand for data has increased exponentially), cell networks have become increasingly over-taxed, harder to deploy, and altogether less reliable. As 5G becomes a reality throughout the country, network engineers are scrambling to keep 4G LTE networks and new 5G networks simultaneously operational, with proper coverage and capacity available.
Having good cell reception available in your commercial building isn’t as simple as it sounds. There is a confluence of variables required to have adequate coverage in an area. The three main factors are:
There are a number of reasons that cell reception might be less than perfect, but they all trace back to an effect on one of these three variables. Some of the reasons that coverage might be poor in a location include:
We will focus specifically on how coverage can be impacted within buildings, as improving coverage in outdoor areas is equally important, but is a role typically reserved for the carriers.
While there are many potential factors that can influence if coverage is going to be available inside a building, there is no guaranteed formula to determine if signal will be a problem. Determining if coverage is an issue inside a building needs to be determined on-site using test equipment and site survey methodology [link to Testing page]. This CAN be done before the building is built, but the results get more accurate the more complete the building is.
There are a number of factors that impact coverage within a building, but it’s generally more important to look for some of the key impacts. The more key impacts a building has, the higher the likelihood that it will have cell reception issues.
These are the primary risk factors to keep in mind when building a project. However, it’s best to get the on-site work completed to measure coverage levels during and after construction as the risk factors can be good indicators you will have poor/average/good signal, but only a survey can determine fully (and catch it ahead of time).
A wide range of solutions can be deployed to solve coverage issues within large scale indoor environments. The capabilities and types of technology have grown exponentially since it became a burden of the building owner to solve coverage gaps.
Early in the history of cell coverage solutions, carriers funded many of the systems that you might connect to in a building. However, as the model evolved, the responsibility to solve coverage in a building passed to the building owner. This necessitated some changes to the technology, as solutions were needed at different price points to accommodate various budgets and building types. The following list is a general review on some of the main approaches but is by no means an exhaustive list.
Cell coverage continues to evolve, and more importantly, the solutions continue to become more hybridized. Meaning, the lines between different solution types are less clearcut, as the solutions all borrow the best features of each other to create more “in between” approaches.
|Residential Grade Booster
|Small scale applications such as a 2-3 room office or a single residential home
|These solutions are quick to install and cover around 2-3k sq/ft. They use the outdoor coverage to provide better signal.
|Commercial Grade Cellular Repeater
|Lower density users in larger square footage. Good fit when voice is a priority, but data speed isn’tThese solutions use the rooftop signal to bring coverage into the building. They are somewhat limited to only providing the quality of signal that can be found outside.
|These solutions use the rooftop signal to bring coverage into the building. They are somewhat limited to only providing the quality of signal that can be found outside.
|Hybrid Cell DAS
|Highly modular and can be deployed in almost any instance outside of massive user density (convention centers, transit depots, stadiums).
|These systems can use an antenna on the roof or bring in carrier direct hardware. They have more intelligence than a typical cellular repeater and can scale infinitely to meet the square footage needs.
|Active Cellular Das
|Deployed in the largest scale environments. Can accommodate anything from large scale class A office to airports.
|These systems will typically bring fiber sources direct from carriers to distribute the signal. Infinitely scalable and capable of handling nearly any number of users when properly designed.
|Standalone Small Cell
|Solutions where a single carrier or 2 carriers is acceptable.
|These systems span a large range of technologies, but they typically distribute a single carrier throughout a building by way of small cell interface. Note: small cells can also be injected into active cellular DAS to serve as the signal source input.
|Private LTE/CBRS Solutions
|Areas where there is a use case for a private network or cellular is a challenge to deploy.
|These solutions are more cell DAS adjacent rather than being strictly cell DAS. They include a large range of technologies geared around finding new ways to bring wireless indoors for less cost.
Our predictions about the future of cell enhancement are typically based on what we want to see in the industry. Due to Illuminati Labs’ performance record and reputation in the industry, manufacturers often seek out our expert advice regarding new developments and we are happy to share. Even so, change can be slow as all solutions need to be properly vetted and tested by both carriers and regulating agencies such as the FCC.
The following future trends are heavily based on the largest pain points facing the industry, realities of building owner budgets, and direction from the carriers.
As 5G continues to mature and emerge, and the need for lightning-fast data grows, the expectations on cell connectivity will exist everywhere. It is no longer enough to hope that a building will have adequate coverage. Coverage must be assessed and audited early in the process, and great care should be taken to evaluate the proper way to solve cell connectivity when it is an issue.
New ways are constantly emerging to bring better cell coverage into buildings, and it is in every building owner’s best interest to understand the current state of their building reception, the options to solve coverage gaps, and the best way to future proof their buildings.