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The Evolution of Multi-Carrier DAS

By Seth Buechley
February 17th, 2011

Episode 1 of a 6: Evolution of Multi-Carrier DAS

Now that we are starting to get the groove of this blogging thing, it’s time for a series.  Since, for the most part, the only heightened knowledge I possess is in the area is multi-carrier DAS, it’s not hard for me to choose a topic.

This Episode addresses the changing multi-carrier business model(s) while Episodes # 2-6 will zero in on how the five major DAS stakeholders are responding.

Stakeholders addressed in subsequent episodes include:

  1. Venues
  2. Carriers
  3. DAS Integrators
  4. Equipment Manufacturers
  5. Third Party Owners – DAS 3POs


The Changing Multi-Carrier Business Model


Just so we’re clear on the lingo.  Multi-carrier = multi-operator = neutral-host.  My personal favorite has become “shared DAS”.   This post relates to DAS solutions capable of providing public safety communications, 2-way radio, and commercial wireless services.  Of course, if your DAS is from SOLiD you get all that in one system using a single fiber.

Since the dawn of cellular,  and more noticeably since the roll-out of 1900 PCS, there has been an ever-increasing  need for improved indoor coverage.

The Old Model works something like this;

Step One:  Sales Team Sell Phones to Company

Step Two: Company Complains About Coverage

Step Three: Sales Team Analyzes Impact Of Unhappiness

Step Four: Engineering Evaluates Cost To Fix Problem

Step Five: Carrier Fixes Their Specific Problem With Lowest Cost

Step Six:  Each Carrier Solves Only Their Problem

Unfortunately for the building owner, this model still applies about 50% of the time with each carrier solving their own problem, thereby leaving the venue with parallel systems or locking the venue into services offered only by the operator with reliable coverage.

Times have been a-changin’ and in the Current Model we’re seeing more Venue-Driven Solutions.   Here’s why;

Knowledge. Venues now know what DAS is.  Four years ago most building owners and low voltage consultants designing new buildings didn’t even know what the phrase DAS meant.  Today, chances are major venues have been touched by DAS and the low voltage consultants they rely on for sage technology advice are being educated on what a good multi-carrier DAS should look like.

Obsolesence. The venues first experience with a DAS may have gone end-of life on them without the ability to be upgraded or supported with parts.  No iPhone UMTS or LTE or path to MiMO makes for unhappy smartphone users.  In many cases venues are being revisited by carriers pitching them on a new DAS that is LTE ready but not capable of being upgraded to multi-carrier.

Disruption. Many venues have allowed several carriers to deploy parallel DAS systems and now the management, upgrade requirements, and hassle-factor of those relationships leaves them longing for a simpler solution.

Data Applications. One of the main reasons venues are turning to DAS has been the shift from mobile voice to mobile data.   Cisco recently released a forecast predicting mobile data will increase by 26X by 2015.  Rumor has it that they tend to aim low (compared with the market-maker analysts that dream numbers up and then charge $5k for a report…but that’s another blog).   With a shift to data, there is, of course, a shift to enterprise applications including multi-media, email, file attachments, etc. that are no longer optional for the average professional.

Critical Communications. In a post 9/11 world there is now an increased focus on public safety communications and interoperability amongst first-responders.  Many jurisdictions are requiring venues, particularly “high-value target” venues like stadiums, airports, and convention centers to provide reliable first-responder coverage within their four walls.  Following that trend, just last week the White House put its weight behind allocating the 700MHz D-Block for public safety communications.  Will authorities settle for billion dollar interoperable networks that don’t reach inside buildings?

For these reasons and many more, we are seeing venue take control of their wireless destiny by requiring that their in-building solutions are truly multi-carrier and capable of meeting their critical communication needs.

In theFuture Model we predict innovations that provide location-based services and higher throughputs to meet the needs of data-rich applications like 2-way streaming video.


For context, today there are about 100,000 towers and 250,000 cell sites.  There might be 10,000 DAS systems deployed. (who really knows?  Nobody counts them!)  With the trend toward low-power small-cell architectures, it has been predicted that there will be millions of transmission sites including traditional sites, optical nodes, pico cells, femto cells and DAS solutions of all types.  The lines are blurring.

As the demand for bandwidth spikes, optical networking will rule the day.  The goal will be getting radio elements closer to the handsets while pushing the optical transport deeper into the core network. The future optical transport will allow multiple protocols and analog/digital convergence over a single fiber with the ability to “drop” services like Ethernet, GPON, EPON, CPRI,  RF, and others along the way at the appropriate destination.

In the next 5 Episodes we’ll explore how the major DAS stakeholders are responding to this changing model.  As always, I welcome any and all feedback.

Seth Buechley


SOLiD Technologies USA

This article originally appeared on AGL Bulletin.

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