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The Wireless Industry’s Not So Well-Kept Secret

April 11th, 2013
5103209989 1b80ed5dd4 b The Wireless Industry’s Not So Well Kept Secret

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.

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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!

Highlights from APCO 2012

August 24th, 2012

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In-Building Technology Update Panel

Our recent re-cap of the APCO International 78th Annual Conference & Expo recounted a community of public safety communication professionals invigorated by the opportunity and challenge associated with building a nationwide interoperable public safety network to serve first responders.

Aside from the spectacular weather, described by locally-raised comedian Louie Anderson as the kind that tricked settlers into stopping in the first place, two milestones stood out: (1) the appointment of the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) board of directors and (2) the creation of the annual Jack Daniel Award.

Establishing  a Nationwide Public Safety Wireless Broadband Network

This years show was abuzz from the get-go because the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) deadline for announcing the FirstNet Board responsible for planning and building a nationwide public safety network fell, serendipitously, on August 20th, the first day of the APCO event.

Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank waxed on about the administrations many accomplishments before proudly announcing the names of the FirstNet Board members who were warmly received by the public safety community.

I have enjoyed the privilege of getting to know Chief Jeff Johnson, past president of the Western Division of the IAFC, during the time we were launching the SOLiD product platform and also while strategizing the formation and mission of the Safer Buildings coalition. Stated simply, he is a strong leader who “gets it” when it comes to the economic and practical reasons why the cellular community and the public safety community will want to leverage common infrastructure to deliver macro and indoor radio services for public safety.

Four public safety members join six cellular and local government members serving alongside three federal agency heads on the FirstNet Board. Of note, there are no radio OEMs (Motorola, Harris, ALU, Cassidian), nor any prime integrator (General Dynamics, Lockheed, etc.), nor active executives from the cellular operators serving as FirstNet Board members.

We can assume this is to prevent conflicts of interest and a vigorous competitive bid environment in the future.

For more on the announcement, see coverage in MissionCritical Communications and Urgent Communications.

Honoring a Lifetime of Service to Public Safety

I was especially pleased to see a new annual award created in the memory of Jack Daniel, a friend and a legendary public safety radio expert.

Jack was a Life Member of APCO and an active member of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), International Code Council (ICC), International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), Radio Club of America (RCA) and many more public safety and radio-oriented organizations. Jack, more than any other person, was responsible for setting the vision and doing the hard work that created the model NFPA and International Fire Code (IFC) codes requiring in-building radio coverage.

The Jack Daniel Award will be given annually to an APCO member to recognize excellence and achievement in the public safety communications arena.

In a touch of class, the President of APCO awarded the inaugural Jack Daniel award posthumously to Jack and invited his widow, Pat Daniel, to the main stage to accept his award.

Doing Our Part

SOLiD participated on the in-building technology update panel on Monday delivering the vision of the Safer Buildings Coalition and the methods by which we are working to ensure Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) installations accommodate public safety radio.

Again, the common sense approach of using Awareness, Policy, and Standards to overcome the fear, uncertainty, and doubt that often prevent or delay the delivery of public safety radio was well-received.

We are officially out of the strategy and launch phase and will now focus our work on assisting some of the nations largest cities with the policy and management tools to develop their own Safer Buildings programs.

Through our product innovations and our leadership in the Safer Buildings Coalition, SOLiD intends to remain squarely in the middle of the conversation seeking to ensure public safety radio is treated like a carpooler rather than a hitchhiker on DAS systems deployed across the US.

Indoor Public Safety Coverage – It’s Not About Technology

February 14th, 2012

We’ve been invited to present at the “Signal Boosters Roundtable” on Thursday, February 23 from 11:15 am to 12:30 pm during the International Wireless Communications Expo (IWCE) at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

While it might seem odd for a company whose name includes “technologies” to say this, we’re NOT going to be talking about technology at IWCE.

That’s because the technology already exists to make buildings safer by providing universal indoor public safety radio coverage. It’s a non-issue.

(Our multi-service Distributed Antenna System (DAS) – ALLIANCE™, which supports commercial wireless, public safety, private two-way radio and paging on a single platform – has been deployed at numerous high-profile locations including the Bellevue Collection. See our video below.)

 

The Technology Objection Myth

There are technical reasons that Public Safety, Commercial Cellular, and Two-Way Radio should remain separate

This is an outdated argument that has been overcome hundreds of times with quality systems deployed by qualified integrators.

In fact, many wireless industry experts believe a converged system with proper filtering is the preferred method of eliminating potential RF interference when compared to two systems often managed by two parties.

Greg Glenn, a co-panelist at IWCE  and noted Public Safety expert on RF Engineering and DAS infrastructure solutions at TriPower will debunk this myth.

 

The Solution: Stakeholder Alignment

We announced the formation of the Public Safety Shared DAS Coalition which weeks seeks to establish a national policy framework for ensuring universal indoor coverage for public safety radio service.

The Coalition seeks to require DAS networks to accommodate public safety radio frequencies and develop an accredited certification program for technicians responsible for deploying DAS networks that serve Public Safety, Commercial Cellular, and Two-Way Radio.

Most importantly, the Coalition is about aligning multiple interests including Local Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJs) and Building Owners as well as Public Safety and Wireless Industry stakeholders.

And, pragmatically, it removes objections such as “technology” from the discussion.

 

Attend the Roundtable

The Signal Boosters Roundtable is  Thursday, February 23 from 11:15 am to 12:30 pm in Room S231.

Zac Champ of the DAS Forum will moderate the discussion.

Other presenting companies during the roundtable include TriPower, Harris Public Safety & Professional Communications, Fiplex Communications and Bird Technologies Group.

 

What’s on Your Mind?

What do you consider to be the key issues and challenges in attaining universal indoor public safety radio coverage for first responders?

  • Liability?
  • Financial?
  • Network Management?

Let us know in the comments below – we’ll discuss during the presentation.

Thanks for reading and following!

 

http://youtu.be/EttDiI02Ok4

 

 

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

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.

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

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.