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DAS in Healthcare: What it is, What CIOs Should Consider & Why

By Mike Collado
February 6th, 2012

In our previous post, we introduced the business case for Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) in the healthcare vertical. Specifically, we explored the business requirements and business models that should be considered to provide in-building coverage.

Today, we’ll take a brief look at how DAS works and highlight the technology considerations a healthcare CIO must weigh.

To review, DAS is used to make the smartphones and tablets used by physicians, clinicians, patients and patient families work inside the hospital.

Anyone who has spent time in a hospital recently knows that wireless is a critical component of healthcare. So much so, that in-building wireless coverage is as expected in a new construction project as, say, installing HVAC service. It is incumbent, then, that healthcare CIOs and IT stakeholders responsible for selecting and deploying DAS networks plan appropriately to provide coverage not just for today’s requirements to provide capacity for LTE services but, also, for future needs.

Unfortunately, that challenge can be daunting. Many decision-makers are not well-versed in DAS. They understand networks and probably the WLAN. But cellular, PCS, LTE – it’s an acronym jungle.

DAS 101: The Main Components

Wireless doesn’t work well indoors because outside wireless signals have a hard time penetrating reflective glass and other building materials. It’s particularly noticeable in the middle of the building, in elevators and stairwells. DAS takes the outside wireless signals and distributes them indoors throughout the building.

The Basic Components of a DAS (Distributed Antenna System) include:

  • The Wireless Based Operator Equipment
  • Head End
  • Remote Units
  • Fiber optic cable
  • Coaxial cable
  • Splitters and Combiners
  • Antennas

To bring the wireless signal into the building, most hospitals will use Wireless Based Operator Equipment to pull the wireless signal from the tower (using a donor antenna) or install a dedicated “base station” on-site.

Aside from the Main DAS Components, Integrators use coaxial cable, fiber optic cable, splitters, combiners and other infrastructure to physically install and connect the network.

The heart of the DAS solution consists of the following:

  • BIU (Base Station Interface Unit) – The BIU is the central point where the operators’s signal is inserted. Typically, this is installed in the MDF (Main Distribution Frame) of the building.

  • ODU (Optical Distribution Unit) – An ODU converts the RF energy coming out of the BIU into light energy and then enables this to be transported vertically and/or horizontally throughout the building to the different floors.

  • ROU (Remote Optical Unit) – The Indoor ROU receives the signals from the BIU through the ODU and simply converts the optical energy back to RF energy of which then allows this to be distributed throughout a coaxial cable infrastructure.

What To Look For

So, what things should healthcare decision-makers look for?

Here’s a checklist of questions to explore:

  • Will the technology solve the current requirements?
  • Will the technology provide the capability to meet future requirements?
  • What is the capital equipment expenditures needed for the implementation?
  • What are the operational expenditures?
  • What is the total cost of ownership?

 

In addition, we believe that the “age” of the technology is an important consideration. New technology advances in DAS will save CAPEX, OPEX and significantly lower risk.

All of these factors should be carefully looked at when evaluating DAS for healthcare deployments for 2012 and beyond.

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