Unfortunately, many buildings face challenges with poor cellular reception and dead zones, often due to factors like building size and construction, location, environmental obstacles, and the placement of cell towers. The number of users on a network can also impact cellular coverage, leading to variations throughout the day or week.
Fortunately, technology now exists to address these cellular connectivity issues in virtually any building. Different coverage needs, signal source availability, and building layouts influence the requirements for an optimal solution and deployment model. This is particularly relevant in multi-use buildings, where hardware flexibility is crucial for accommodating diverse configurations.
Not all technologies are equal
There are three primary categories of technology employed to enhance cellular reception in commercial buildings ranging from 30,000 to 500,000 square feet: analog passive Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) or bidirectional amplifiers (BDAs), repeaters, active DAS solutions, and active DAS hybrids. The choice of technology significantly impacts implementation costs, time, and the quality of cellular reception experienced by occupants.
Flexible signal sources
Effective in-building cellular coverage revolves around distributing cellular signals precisely where users need them. Overcoming external or building construction obstacles—such as cement walls or nearby tall buildings—requires positioning antennas outside the building. These antennas are configured to capture the best signals from cell towers, also known as macro networks or macro cell towers.
Analog versus digital
Once the signal reaches the headend (control center) of the cellular amplification system, it is transmitted to internal antennas inside the building where a stronger signal is required. Internal antennas rebroadcast the signal throughout the building to and from user equipment, such as cell phones or other cellular-connected devices, connected via cable.
Stronger signal means bigger coverage footprint and better reception
The cellular signal enters a facility at a specific power level, and amplifiers increase the input signal power—referred to as "gain." The amount of gain is critical, as it defines the system's coverage footprint. The best-performing systems aim to approach regulatory limits set by the FCC without exceeding them.
Systems with intelligence are smarter
The cellular environment is dynamic, with various variables affecting the signal environment and requiring network adaptation. Intelligent systems can significantly impact the quality and footprint of cellular reception inside a building. For instance:
1. Intelligently amplifying only desired carrier signals and filtering out unwanted noise improves service quality by minimising network noise.
2. Intelligent echo-cancellation allows units to produce more power, resulting in a larger coverage footprint without the risk of negative outcomes like isolation.
3. Intelligent self-configuration during installation ensures optimum settings, reducing installation time and cost.
Installation and maintenance
While Active DAS is the ideal technology for very large venues over a million square feet, it is the most costly per square foot for buildings under 500,000 square feet. Additionally, the installation and negotiation with carriers may take up to 18 months. In contrast, both BDA passive DAS and active DAS hybrids can be rapidly installed, sometimes within days, depending on venue size. These systems also cost only a fraction of an Active DAS.
Maintenance costs can impact the budget, with Active DAS hybrids requiring no special maintenance agreements. However, both passive and active DAS are more complicated RF environments and will require regular maintenance. Considering the total cost of ownership, it may be worthwhile to explore maintenance contracts with installers for these systems.
Contact us today to discover which smart In-Building Mobile coverage solution is best-suited to your business.
Established in January 2013, UK Connect has become the UK's leading advanced wireless connectivity solutions provider, predominantly serving the construction industry. The company has connected over 5,500 sites globally with its advanced Wireless 5GFWA, Private Cellular Networks and LeoSat Solutions. UK Connect's success is built on a foundation of a Connectivity guarantee, 10 years of dependability, proactive24/7 Support and the utilisation of Cutting-edge Technology. Discover how our comprehensive Connectivity solutions can elevate your business at www.ukconnect.com.
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