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DAS in Action Event Wrap-up: Small Cells & Rapid Change

By Mike Collado
April 12th, 2012

Under the energetic leadership of Tracy Ford, the DAS Forum and PCIA significantly raised the bar for events focused on Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) during DAS in Action this week in Atlanta.

Attendance increased more than 80% compared to the previous DAS in Action event, attracted representation across a broad range of industry stakeholders including wireless operators, OEMs, integrators and others, and covered issues and trends for both indoor and outdoor DAS.

The agenda balanced technical and business content with enough networking breaks to prevent “death by PowerPoint.”

And, Tracy pulled off the seemingly impossible – she kept the event on schedule!

Over the two days, two core themes emerged:

Small Cells & Backhaul

From the opening to closing bells, small cells and backhaul seemed to be the most talked about topics. Multiple presenters shared the view that wireless operators are no longer focused on building networks from the outside in but, rather, from the inside out.

Similarly, panelists repeatedly cited the staggering trend in data growth that’s driving the need for network capacity. The day’s “wow” metric was offered up by Jim Parker of AT&T’s Antenna Solutions Group who shared the statistic of 8000% growth in data traffic over the past couple years which the wireless operator attributes to, among other things, the fact that more data is now uploaded than downloaded.

And Iain Gillot at iGR Research foretasted that the number of small cells deployed will be a multiple of 10 to 20 times that of operator macro cells.

Further, as a result of both LTE and data consumption, backhaul has become a paramount piece of the solution for ensuring capacity and network expansion while seeking to control network costs and managing network assets.

Difficult-To-Forecast Future

Every event seeks to provide a glimpse into the future.

But it is clear from multiple panelists that the wireless industry vision of the future can only be realistically projected out a couple years. That’s because applications, devices and user habits are changing so rapidly that it’s extremely difficult to project very far into the future.

That point was driven home during Mike Brock’s case study of AT&T’s deployment at Turner Field which compared the at-the-time state of the art SISO deployment in 2010 with the operator’s 2011 state of the art MIMO deployment at the Superdome. User and capacity demand will necessitate that the network at Turner Field will likely need to be upgraded in the next couple of years.

 

DAS Tour: Turner Field

 

So, with such rapid change, what does “future-proof” mean? More importantly, how do the stakeholders align to protect the investment in DAS?

For starters, balancing the expectations of building owners with the carrier desire for ROI.

Other pragmatic approaches include deploying gear from OEMs who invest in R&D; plus deploying an infrastructure that can be expanded. For instance, pull additional fiber for backhaul capacity or multiple cabling to accommodate a MIMO network down the road.

And, of course, adopting best practices for designing and deploying the DAS network.

(BTW, a chapeaux tip to our friends at iBwave for the launch this week of  the iBwave Mobile site survey app!)

C’mon, Throw Me A Bone!

Some panelists did, however, venture out on a limb to provide a glimpse into the future of DAS.

Their vision – which we share – includes an Ethernet backbone plus active components in the ceiling that will be able to support (and be easily expanded) Telemetry services for monitoring, Location-Based Service (LBS) for asset tracking, Sensors for building automation, surveillance and security, and Power over Ethernet (PoE) for Wireless LAN (WLAN) access points and other applications.

Great Work!

Kudos again to Tracy and the PCIA team!

We’re grateful to have had the opportunity to present on the “Building Codes, Public Safety and DAS” session along with our top-notch co-panelists. More on that in our next post!

And, we certainly enjoyed our productive meetings and the new connections we made – all set against the backdrop of Atlanta Southern hospitality.

We’re truly curious to see where DAS in Action grows from here. And, to see how the upcoming DAS Congress – where SOLiD is title sponsor – continues to evolve. To be sure, it’s an exciting and dynamic time for the DAS industry!

For additional coverage on DAS Congress, check out Dan Myer’s stories in RCR Wireless for Day #1 and Day #2.

Tell us…

What did you think about DAS in Action?

DAS Tour: Georgia Aquarium

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