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Emerging Wireless Technology Trends on Campus – Part 3

By Mike Collado
October 30th, 2013

SOLiD DAS Deployment at Neyland Stadium - University of Tennessee

We started this series of posts by examining the campus “data tsunami” contributed by the most bleeding edge wireless users – college students who possess multiple wireless devices and have grown up in a connected world with access to unlimited data.

Next, we looked at the dilemma university IT departments face in responding to “hockey-stick” bandwidth growth demands while operating under strict budget constraints and mandates to create revenue streams to recoup investments in telecommunications systems.

Today we examine Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS), a technology that has been widely deployed on campuses over the past 10 years. DAS has evolved to also handle the increasing need to support public-safety communications including private and public 2-way radios. And innovations in the technology enable DAS to be highly efficient in fiber use.

But the challenges of funding a DAS remain. University IT departments encounter a greater willingness from wireless operators to fund coverage in, say, a stadium but struggle to secure funding for coverage inside dorms and classrooms.

Solution: Distributed Antenna System (DAS)

DAS solves the problems of over-burdened cellular networks by addressing two critical issues:

  1. DAS brings coverage indoors where the outdoor macro, traditionally cell sites, cannot reach or penetrate.
  2. More importantly, DAS addresses capacity.

DAS brings capacity relief to the macro network to allow more users in the macro environment to enjoy all the social networking, video streaming, and access to cloud-based storage that anyone could want.

Indoor users benefit from having dedicated capacity and quality service throughout the indoor space.

Although DAS is not a new technology, some of the trends affecting it, like enabling both public-safety and cellular services with the same infrastructure, are new.

Communication During Public Emergencies is Essential

The need for effective cellular and public-safety communications during emergencies on campus is absolutely critical as evidenced by recent events:

  • In 2012 , there were ten school shootings that left a total of  41 people dead and thirteen wounded.
  • 2013 has been even more deadly. In the month of January alone, 8 school shootings took place.
  • In March 2013, a suicide on an Orlando, Florida campus uncovered a massive plot to massacre students.
  • Campus shootings were reported in Christiansburg, Virginia and Houston, Texas in April of 2013
  • Explosions were reported on 5 college campuses in the first half of 2013.

Funding Presents A Key Challenge

Funding DAS implementations, often multi-million dollar projects, is a key challenge for colleges and universities.

Campus IT departments hope to be able to shift the burden of cost to wireless operators, which allows them to fund other critical improvements to infrastructure.

Operators tend to be more focused on servicing the high traffic places on campus where capacity is a problem, like the stadiums and arenas, rather than with dorm or library access.

Additionally, hospitals are more likely to receive funding for DAS deployments – either though the carriers or university – as physicians and clinicians now rely upon smartphones and tablets to deliver patient care, in addition to pagers and security and ground staff communicate using private 2-way radios.

Finding funding for dorms, classrooms, and offices remains problematic.

Next Post: The benefits and challenges of Wi-Fi 

Note: A version of this article was originally published in 2013 Fall ACUTA Journal.

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