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Posts Tagged ‘ DAS Integrators ’

Teenagers, Standards & Education: Themes at BICSI Fall Conference In-Building Panel

By Mike Collado
October 6th, 2014

IMG_0140I had the privilege last week to lead a panel of industry experts at the BICSI Fall Conference to examine the state of the in-building wireless industry – “Revolution and Evolution: Densifying the Network Through DAS and Small Cells”. The session fostered numerous observations and discussions that lasted well after the allotted hour.

It’s always revelatory to go play in another sandbox rather than one’s own. Meaning – much can be learned simply by going to non-wireless industry conferences.

For starters, it’s a good litmus test to check for alignment. Are we speaking the same language? Are we focused on the right things? Are we making it easy for stakeholders to do their jobs?

The wireless industry loves its acronyms (indeed, every industry has its own vocabulary). But within the BICSI crowd, we quickly discovered found that our “dazz” is often “D-A-S”. Similarly, a comment about coming carrier VoLTE deployments was immediately met with puzzled looks and a question of it meaning.

Don’t be fooled: BICSI attracts the smart folks who are in the infrastructure “trenches”.

Compared to a DAS panel I attended at last year’s conference, the majority of attendees in our session possessed experience in designing, deploying and managing a DAS. And true to BICSI membership characteristics, they were mostly technical engineers focused on network design and implementation; no OEMs nor wireless operators.

Here’s what we learned…

Teenage Angst

The in-building market exhibits the paradoxical characteristics of a teenager: mature yet immature.

Small cells – a shrunk down version of a macro network Remote Radio Head (RRH) – are part of the toolkit to cost-effectively densify smaller buildings. However, this strategy continues to lack an ubiquitous business process for deployment.

Similarly, it has been observed by ABI’s Stuart Carlaw that DAS is evolving at a frightening pace. Unlike small cells, DAS can serve as a “neutral host” to support multiple wireless operators as well as public-safety. Additionally, DAS systems can be tailored to provide appropriate capacity levels through a variety of remote amplifiers including low power (1W/2W), mid-range (5W) and high power (20W). Still, the deployment of LTE has meant end-of-life to many DAS networks – some barely three years old. Plus DAS is unable to deliver analytics beyond a rudimentary level.

As the title of the session alludes, the in-building space continues to mature – much like a teenager. So we expect the paradoxes will continue even as the industry makes significant advances.

Enquiring Minds Want to Know

We fielded a lot of questions…

Who’s responsible for owning the in-building network? 

Joe Mullin (InSite Wireless) believes the best model is for a “neutral host” such as his company to own it. They possess the capital and the repeatable process among OEMs, Integrators and Operators to see a densification project through “on air” completion. Over the past 12 months, neutral host has become the most prevalent model. But another is the carrier-owned model such as AT&T’s Antenna Solutions Group (ASG). This model enables the operator to be the anchor tenant and allows other operators to join (akin to a neutral host). Lastly, a venue itself may choose to own the network; however this model is currently less prevalent among DAS deployments

Who’s responsible for paying for a public-safety network to comply with local mandates?

Bob Kelley (MCS) says the building owner should’t have to shoulder the entire burden of cost to comply with public-safety mandates. A neutral host DAS is a pragmatic solution to deploy public-safety communications in addition to cellular services to meet requirements and mandates. If the DAS is being build – typically – for commercial cellular, it’s advantageous and cost-effective to add the public-safety layer. After all, Kelley says that public-safety should accomplish four things: (1) enable interoperable communications among agencies; (2) provide e911 location; (3) enable the general public to communicate with emergency personnel and; (4) enable emergency personnel to notify and communicate with the general public. (These are issues the Safer Buildings Coalition are wrestling with in which SOLiD is a founding member). However, some mandates prefer to keep public-safety, which increases the cost because it requires a separate and parallel network.

What’s the right tool to enable in-building communications?

The toolkit currently consists of DAS, Small Cells and WiFi. For buildings under 100,000 square feet, small cells are the obvious choice. Conversely, for big venues larger than 500,000 square feet, DAS is best-positioned to address capacity and coverage needs. But that exposes a gray area in-between where we believe there will be a hybrid. For example, consider a hotel / conference center… We might put small cells in the lobby, conference areas and open areas where there is a need for higher capacity and deploy DAS through the rooms. And layer WiFi throughout. We’ll be publishing a paper in the coming months on this thought-provoking topic.

Becoming Experts

With BYOD (bring your own device) initiatives and trends where companies eschew desktop phones (remember those?) for smartphones, the BICSI community can’t avoid in-building.

But is it possible to make it simpler though – say – a “DAS in a box” approach for deploying in-building networks? Dave Dohm (Panduit) and Greg Soffera (P2S Engineering) don’t think so.

Given the unique characteristics of every building, these RCCD engineers say there are too many variables to consider including LEED (green building) materials; leaded walls (in hospitals); floorplans (open areas versus offices); and proximity and sides facing macro towers – all of which affect design and link budget.

However, the in-building industry continues to struggle with the challenge of expertise among those who design, install and manage the networks.

Wireless operators are increasingly requiring training and certification to ensure QoS (quality of service) over DAS networks. OEMs including SOLiD offer sophisticated training programs that cover RF principles as well as product-specific nuances. CIBET has led the industry by providing BICSI accreditation for the in-building RF Engineering and Project Management communities. And PCIA just announced its training initiative vision.

BICSI is actively developing standards and guidelines to define current practices and drive improvement in quality and system performance.

With public-safety rapidly becoming a requirement, standards will be increasingly important including ways to certify that buildings are FirstNet public-safety compliance.

Our Brilliant Panel

Engaging discussions are made great by insightful thought leaders. We were fortunate to have accomplished stakeholders from the network design, infrastructure, OEM and integrator roles including:

 

We hope to keep the discussion going among the BICSI community through webinars and inclusion on future conference agendas. Stay tuned.

 

BICSI Showguide_2

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A view from the stage as attendees start filling up the room

 

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Fueling up before the panel with Joe Mullin (InSite), Ken Sandfeld (SOLiD), Bob Elliot (Panduit) and Mike Collado (SOLiD)

 

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Wireless guys can’t resist car shows (the Orange County Auto Show was setting up as BICSI was winding down). Nor unicorns, it seems…

 

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Test drive?

 

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Stunning

 

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Outside the Anaheim Convention Center – Bird of Paradise flower

The Expanding & Converging Scope of DAS Industry Events

By Mike Collado
May 9th, 2013

Fresh off of the Big Celebration in the Big Apple to mark the completion of the First Phase of Transit Wireless’ multi-year plan to deliver cellular and Wi-Fi wireless communications in 277 underground stations within the New York City Subway, Team SOLiD roared into Las Vegas for the 6th Annual DAS & – now – Small Cells Congress where we talked shop at our solution showcase booth, presented with some of the industry’s leading thinkers on topics including small cell backhaul and emerging wireless communications strategies at stadiums, and socialized with customers, partners and peers.

What’s in a Name?

In addition to renaming this conference, PCIA’s DAS Forum announced at its recent DAS in Action event its new moniker: HetNet Forum.

Oy! As an industry, aren’t we still struggling with how to define a Small Cell? And now we’ve got to try and get our arms around HetNet?

(BTW, our friend Iain Gillott at iGR has recently published an interesting article on this very debate)

Actually, we’ve been citing the trend of convergence for some time now and so it’s only natural that these organizations broaden their scope.

Nonetheless, the industry is engaging in compelling discourse ranging from venerable editors such as Light Reading‘s Dan Jones who predicts 2013 to be the year of the small cell to industry experts such as iBwave’s Mario Bouchard who views small cells still as an industry buzzword.

To this debate, we say, “Bravo!” It’s good for the industry.

Tackling Timely Topics

We had the privilege to present and moderate two amazing and insightful panels.

SK Telecom, Ericsson, Small Cells Forum and iGR shared emerging trends during the “Fronthaul: The New Paradigm for Enabling the HetNet” panel.

Their consensus echoes what Jennifer Pigg at Yankee Group describes as a “Machiavellian” approach to backhaul. Specifically, while operators care deeply about RAN, if backhaul could be done with bailing wire and chewing gum, they’d do it.

Bottom line, our panel characterized backhaul as the elephant in the room for which there will never be too much capacity.

Not to be outdone, our second panel assembled each stakeholder in a stadium wireless deployment including the wireless operator (AT&T), venue owner (Minnesota Twins), neutral host (InSite Wireless), integrator (CSI, now Goodman Networks) and OEM (SOLiD) to explore “Bringing the Home Game Day Experience to the Stadium.” We’ve blogged in the past that stadiums represent a unique challenge to wireless networks and it’s only getting more difficult to address.

The challenge? Overcoming spectrum constraints and building an economic model to enable the ultimate fan experience. And provide public-safety coverage, too.

The solution – according to the panel – is a wireless “gumbo” that consists of RAN, DAS and Wi-Fi; an infrastructure “roux” of cabling that scales for future network and antennae optimization and emerging technologies; and a benefits “garnish” that delivers analytics, loyalty programs and quality of experience.

(Okay, so we’ve been busted… we’re still reminiscing over the gumbo at Emeril’s Delmonico Steakhouse!)

The panel suggests that professional sports leagues will over time set the wireless technology roadmap for the game day experience.

All Work and No Play…

Our friends at iBwave inverted the proceedings this year scheduled their annual User Group and Cocktail Party to fall on the eve of the conference. So perhaps that explains the quiet start to the first morning?

Mario, Nathalie and Co. throw a great party! Check out their blog and photos.

And on Tuesday, SOLiD enjoyed the good company of our carrier, partner and industry friends at Koi. Sorry competitors (smiles).

So, until next year. Although we strongly suspect we’ll see some familiar faces once again in Las Vegas at CTIA in two weeks!

Your Turn

Tell us what you heard at DAS & Small Cells Congress (or DAS in Action) that you found to be truly interesting in the comments below.

Thanks for reading!

Fronthaul Panel featuring SK Telecom, iGR's Iain Gillott, Small Cell Forum's Andy Germano, Ericsson's Stefan Calmerman and SOLiD CTO Saeed Anwar

 

The Hip DAS Experts of SOLiD

 

SOLiD Cocktail Party at Koi

 

Schmoozing at Koi

 

The Wireless Industry’s Not So Well-Kept Secret

By Mike Collado
April 11th, 2013

Photo: val.pearl

The not so well-kept secret within the wireless industry is that the wireless technicians who install multi-million dollar Distributed Antenna System (DAS) networks often do not possess the necessary basic skillsets to successfully deploy them.

And it’s causing not only headaches for building owners, carriers, DAS OEMs, integrators and installers; it’s costing them big money as well.

Economics 101

You know the law of supply and demand. Whether it’s Xbox, real estate or talent, a hot market drives demand which in turn affects supply.

As the wireless industry continues its migration toward upgrading wireless infrastructure to 4G technologies, the talent pool of well-qualified wireless technicians and RF engineers is increasingly becoming strained because these resources are spread across multiple projects.

So rather than turn away business, what happens? Those who are available get hired: junior or novice wireless technicians. And everyone hopes that it works out.

The justification is the legitimate concern of overhiring or losing investments in training should there be a work reduction.

ISO Skillsets

Fact is, most novice wireless technicians don’t possess the scientific principles of RF nor the pragmatic best practices required for In-Building Wireless coax and fiber compared with Cable TV or CAT 5 cable pulling.

But it’s not their fault. Most training schools do not provide education on wireless technology nor RF basics.

Thankfully that’s starting to change. Slowly.

Training & Certification Initiatives

There’s a conversation within the industry that’s steadily getting louder.

To whit, training and certification was the #1 topic of discussion among members of the DAS Forum during its Annual Meeting last September.

DAS Manufacturers and Integrators are starting to insist on basic RF “101-Level” training for field technicians. And they’re investing in training programs.

Carriers are similarly requiring best practice standards such as PIM Testing (a key topic during last week’s Verizon IBTUF). In effect, if installers want to dance with the carriers, they need to invest in PIM Testing equipment.

Visitors at SOLiD's Booth at CIBET II

The CIBET Initiative

Dr. Ken Baker and Phil Ziegler are addressing the need for RF 101 Training through CIBET (Certified In-Building Engineering Technologist Training).

Now in its second iteration, CIBET provides an introductory overview of topics in DAS science fundamentals, leading to more advanced training and certification for engineers and project managers. At the conclusion of either the Basic or Advanced RF Tracks, students sit for a certification exam and are awarded continuing education credits.

SOLiD has been a sponsor of CIBET since its inception. It’s been positive to see more participants this week in Atlanta than the first iteration held last September in Denver.

We’re similarly encouraged that industry vertical events such as next week’s ACUTA Annual Conference are also including DAS Training on their agendas.

SOLiD’s Role

In our last post, we shared that we’ve invested in a live demonstration showcase and SOLiD University™ training classroom for our customers and partners.

Our commitment is to create the gold standard for training and service excellence. The SOLiD training center vision is to provide hands-on, instructor-led training that utilizes the latest, proven training and retention techniques.

We’re excited to do our part to ensure that the people who install today’s sophisticated DAS networks are armed with the skillsets to deploy and manage them.

Your Turn

How is does RF training affect your business? Is the industry doing enough to address it? What are you doing to create best practices?

Let us know in the comments. Thanks!

A Different Vibe at the 2013 IWCE Conference

By Mike Collado
March 25th, 2013

EXPRESS PS at Tempest Telecom Booth

The resounding observation among attendees of the 2013 IWCE Conference was newfound “energy”.

Maybe it’s because in 2012 Las Vegas played host simultaneously to HIMSS and IWCE which siphoned off – or at least competed with – attendance at the public-safety and two-way radio technology event. But this year it seemed that IWCE attracted twice the number of attendees!

And with the combination of FirstNet initiatives and the industry push toward LTE public-safety communications, the event appears to be attracting new entrants who are bringing an information technologies (IT) outlook to radio frequency (RF).

Which is a good thing as the public-safety and cellular industries collaborate to ensure that mission-critical communications for first responders work both outdoors and indoors.

DAS (Finally) Gets its Due

Whereas in previous years solving the challenge of indoor public-safety communications was typically handled in a lone signal boosters session, the 2013 agenda hosted multiple sessions on DAS, small cells and interoperability communications not to mention backhaul. SOLiD and many members of the DAS Forum who are active within public-safety were on hand to participate on the educational sessions.

During the In-Building Wireless and DAS Fundamentals workshop, SOLiD’s President and Founder of the Safer Buildings Coalition – Seth Buechley – joined a panel of DAS OEMs and Integrators to explore industry trends and initiatives.

While public-safety communications has moved away from “fireman jacks” (where first responders used to plug in radios to building wiring) and instead to RF wireless coverage, the need for RF coverage extension remains.

The cellular industry solves these challenges through DAS. Which is why the Safer Buildings Coalition advocates for accommodating public-safety on the same in-building network that enables cellular.

Consolidation & Convergence

Increasingly building owners are being mandated to include public-safety coverage. Panelists suggest a trend of consolidation and convergence.

For instance, Seth Buechley asked if DAS is seen as the plumbing that delivers RF, shouldn’t cellular and public-safety be delivered on the same network?

Darlene Braunschweig (Tempest Telecom) likened today’s in-building public-safety market to the early days of neutral-host cellular DAS when building owners insisted on a single platform as opposed to having three systems installed by three different people.

Indeed, Tempest reports that the firm is seeing fewer public-safety only deployments.

And following the trend of convergence, Seth Buechley shared that a key initiative of Safer Buildings Coalition is to create and consolidate myriad cellular and public-safety standards bodies and integrator certification programs so as to ensure that the needs of both industries are satisfied to ensure mission-critical communications.

Look for more from Safer Buildings Coalition at the APCO Annual Conference & Expo.

Public-Safety Only DAS

Although the industry trend is toward a converged, neutral-host DAS platform for both cellular and public-safety, building owners will increasingly be on the hook to enable public-safety communications as local codes include coverage mandates.

To address this need, SOLiD launched its single system public-safety DAS – EXPRESS PS – at IWCE which was showcased in Tempest’s booth.

EXPRESS PS supports 700/800/UHF/VHF public-safety frequencies on a single system and provides coverage for public-safety and land mobile radio (LMR) communications services inside buildings.

Now Your Turn

Did you attend IWCE? What were your key takeaways?

SOLiD President & Safer Buildings Coalition Founder Seth Buechely at IWCE