DAS Forum Stirs Up Big Apple Airwaves
DAS was “in the air” at the Northeast DAS and Small Cell Forum held in the Manhattan Sheraton Hotel in New York City last month. LBA CTO Chris Horne participated and filed this report.
Some things never change, but wireless technology is constantly changing. There seems to be no slowdown in broadband access and cell phone usage. Those that embrace the right change will see opportunities and there is no better place to look for opportunities than “small cells” and “DAS” distributed antenna systems. In response to the bourgeoning data growth, carriers like AT&T and Verizon have to be creative in their technology and infrastructure decisions. The old ways of the Bell System are long gone.
How is the wireless ecosystem evolving? Places like Yankee Stadium and the New York subway stations now have cellular antennas built-in to the structures. High rise buildings gave way to small cells, WiFi and in-building antennas much different from the urban landscape of towers.
These changes have brought a new universe of players into the wireless business. The audience included urban architects, LEED APs, engineers, public safety officials, builders, health care technology officers, university information officials, city officials, commercial real estate owners or managers, and telecommunication professionals.
Building on audience familiarity with the basics of DAS, several presenters like American Tower provided interesting insight into DAS business planning and financial decision-making. For example, discussions explored the desire of building owners to use DAS for higher returns on real estate investment and optimal ways for a carrier like AT&T to become involved in such DAS projects.
New relationships are evolving in the wireless industry. A hot topic was the marriage courtship taking place between the first responder public safety and traditional wireless communities. One panel at the Forum included managers from the public safety sector and from wireless carriers. All agreed DAS must take into account the liability concerns of public safety communicators and the business necessities of commercial wireless. The panel concluded DAS must be “future proof” and consider “paying now or paying later” for the demands of first responders and smartphone users.
Prominent in Forum discussions was the healthcare industry. It is experiencing fundamental change in business practices including electronic medical records and growth of wireless systems and devices. A panel at the event included wireless consultants who work in the medical field to facilitate DAS and other systems to meet these evolving requirements. Hospitals require predictable wireless coverage for critical life systems. A key concern of these experts was interference as a serious problem facing the growth of wireless device devices in hospitals.
Other panels included discussions on mass transit, sports arenas and stadiums. RF Engineering for mass transit systems can be a challenge where standard coverage and capacity techniques may not work.
Many technical challenges exist in the assessment of DAS opportunities, and in deployment and operations management. LBA is an expert resource for evaluating DAS requirements in venues, overseeing and testing deployments, and resolving interference and other problems in system environments. Relative to Forum-cited medical system interference problems, LBA has significant background in resolving wireless – medical device interference and RF safety issues of hospital DAS deployments. LBA also offers RF engineering services including expert testimony on DAS and small cell issues and on system design. For more information see http://devlbagroup.com/associates/in-building-wireless-distributed-antenna-system.php.
In summary, both DAS fundamentals and advanced trends were on-stage at this Northeast DAS and Small Cell Forum. Although DAS is much more mature than it was 10 years ago when “repeaters” filled coverage holes, the conference discussion made clear that DAS systems would not commoditize soon. Other take-aways were that no “one size fits all” solution has evolved, or is likely to do so anytime soon, and that opportunities abound to take part in the DAS business for clever firms with technical competence and who know the right players in order to get a seat at the table.
DAS is in the air. Can you catch it?