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Hello Again, oDAS

By Mike Collado
December 23rd, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-12-23 at 7.54.52 AMThroughout 2015, our team at SOLiD talked about two key industry trends and challenges: the emerging Middleprise market opportunity and ensuring that indoor public-safety coverage become an imperative requirement within both greenfield and brownfield venues.

(Learn more about the Middleprise by watching our video from DAS Congress and our article in AGL Magazine.)

(Learn more about the Public-Safety Imperative by listening to our webinar with Urgent Communications and our article in High Rise Facilities. And be sure to download a copy of our free eBook here.)

There’s a third industry challenge trend afoot that has myriad implications for the wireless ecosystem: densifying urban outdoor markets.

Last year, I blogged that “traditional methods of blasting macro or overpowered “big iron” DAS are inefficient and ineffective for improving and filling holes for capacity and coverage in certain urban concentrated areas” and that this suggested opportunity for not just Small Cells but also reimagined oDAS solutions such as SOLiD’s CityDAS Collocation Street Pillar, as part of a JV with ConcealFab.

And a year prior to that, Joe Madden at Mobile Experts wrote in FierceWireless that “DAS is under-hyped” and that “Outdoor DAS is quicker than towers. Outdoor DAS is actually growing faster than indoor DAS in the U.S. market, because LTE roll-out needs to happen quickly and new towers are not quick.”

Does this mean a coming renaissance for oDAS?

For perspective, Stephane Teral at Infonetics reports that iDAS accounts for 70% to 80% of the total DAS market worldwide while “outdoor remains a niche market.” (Source: October 23, 2014 DAS Equipment report)

But at the recent DAS Congress Europe conference, Earl Lum at EJL Research observed that outdoor wireless deployments in dense urban markets are migrating to oDAS and Small Cells.

 

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Here’s where it gets interesting – at least for U.S. markets… According to Lum, implementation will vary from city by city. For example, he says San Francisco is deploying oDAS while New York City is deploying (mostly) Small Cells.

(In Europe, Lum suggests that Small Cells will be the solution of choice for dense urban outdoor coverage and capacity.)

The key factor is availability of poles. With limited poles, San Francisco requires sharing which means a multi-carrier solution which means oDAS; in contrast, NYC has many poles so collection of rent revenue wins the day for standalone pole solutions which means a single-carrier solution which means Small Cells.

(See Martha DeGrasse‘s story on small cell deployments on New York City in RCR Wireless .

The industry is now beginning to need to solve for capacity – not coverage – in dense outdoor urban markets. Because of that need, city managers and city IT managers within the top – say – 50 markets are likely starting to formulate whether their municipality will go Small Cell or oDAS. That is, if they want to get in on the lucrative revenue opportunity of leasing poles. Otherwise, they risk losing out to commercial buildings that will host densification solutions on rooftop sites.

Which brings us back to oDAS… New problems require new thinking and new solutions. So if not an oDAS renaissance, at least there’s a revisiting and rethinking of oDAS.

Is high-power still the right approach? Or is it more pragmatic and strategic to consider lowering the “wireless canopy” with a lower-power, pin-point type solution that enables a “roadmap” whereby chassis infrastructure remains in place with modular hardware / software adaptability to address inevitable changing capacity requirements?

And do we architect with 20W oDAS and plan to fill in with a next-phase 10W underlayment as capacity requirements inevitably increase? Or, should oDAS begin to look like iDAS from a power level perspective (i.e., 5W or less)?

As we learned from the exploring the Middleprise this past year, the business model (watch a panel discussion about funding and ownership trends from the NEDAS Boston Workshops & Social) will influence the technology solution. For dense urban outdoor markets, the strategic levers likely center around lowering the cost to get on a pole or the ability to generate more revenue by changing what gets deployed.

What are you observing in the outdoor urban markets?

 

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