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Carrier Positioning

By Seth Buechley
June 9th, 2011

Episode 3 of 6: Evolution of Multi-Carrier DAS

You’d think that the carriers would be the most experienced players in the arena of multi-carrier DAS. In reality, wireless carriers have primarily focused on systems that carry only their frequencies and have rarely deployed or managed multi-carrier systems. They simply have limited experience or interest in managing their competitor’s networks.

U.S. carriers are often perceived as being reluctant participants when it comes to improving indoor coverage. When they finally do allocate resources to fix an indoor problem, the carriers will almost always fix the problem only for themselves and, in some cases, require building owners to purchase additional wireless devices or extend their current contracts.

To be fair, U.S. carriers have a playing field that is massive both geographically and economically. A robust, competitive wireless industry puts tremendous pressure on operators to continue to add cell sites and technologies to their macro networks and worry about in-building coverage issues when complaints require action.

With the notable exception of a new push from AT&T, the carriers have been willing to plug in to multi-carrier DAS systems, but not willing to lead the charge. The following is a general overview of the DAS programs in place at the four leading U.S. carriers. Of course, there are many exceptions to the generalizations offered below.

Sprint is the pioneer of in-building solutions. From the early days of Nextel push-to-talk, Sprint has had a focus on business users and has been willing to trade coverage for contracts.
* The original in-building national team
* National DAS standards
* National DAS engineering
* National DAS budgets
* A DAS often requires new commitment to handsets
* Experienced with Sprint-only DAS solutions
* Does not want to own multi-carrier DAS
* Sales-driven program
* Willing to plug into previously developed DAS

T-Mobile has been fairly inactive in the area of DAS until recently. It seems to be willing to let others plow the ground, plugging in to DAS systems that get built by other players. T-Mobile has effectively deployed DAS to simultaneously improve indoor coverage and route that traffic away from its macro network.
* No national in-building team or model
* Limited DAS engineering
* Regional DAS budgets
* Regional DAS decisions
* Experience with T-Mobile-only DAS solutions
* Plug-in philosophy
* Willing to plug into previously developed DAS

AT&T took the U.S. wireless industry by surprise, announcing in 2010 its plan to build, own, operate and lease multi-carrier DAS to other carriers. The program is being developed and rolled into the market with the help of several hundred new employees focused on DAS.
* New national DAS team and model
* National DAS standards
* National DAS engineering
* National DAS budgets
* Cooperation between regional and national groups
* Only carrier with an ownership goal for multi-carrier DAS
* Deploys AT&T-only and multi-carrier DAS
* Willing to plug into previously developed DAS

Verizon is the wildcard in the DAS space. The company that lays claim to the most reliable network has yet to establish a cohesive program to deliver a multi-carrier DAS to the market. However, Verizon excels at Verizon-only DAS and has proven to be the clear leader aligning other carriers in tackling DAS systems in large public venues such as airports and subways.
* No national DAS model
* National DAS standards
* Regional engineering
* Regional budgets
* Regional decisions on DAS systems
* Mostly Verizon-only solutions
* Leader for big public venues
* Willing to plug into previously developed DAS

Disclaimer: None of the aforementioned should be construed as official positions from any wireless carrier.

This article was originally published on AGL Bulletin

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