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WiFi on a DAS? First ask yourself why.

By Seth Buechley
January 3rd, 2011

For years there has been a debate about whether it’s good or bad or practical to place WiFi on a DAS.

There are still those that promise 3G/4G cellular and WLAN services can run on one system and work flawlessly everywhere.  The truth often  proves that customers end up married to the company that deployed a very expensive passive coax DAS which really doesn’t meet the needs of the cellular carriers very well at all.  However, once converged with a WiFi network divorcing from the company that installed and manages that sort of DAS scenario proves difficult and costly.

In recent years, hybrid Fiber-Coax DAS solutions have proven their superiority in every way measurable – venue adoption, RF performance, carrier certification, etc.

At SOLiD, we almost always recommend that our venue owners avoid running WiFi on the DAS regardless of what flavor (A/B/G/N).

Here’s why.

  1. With a fiber DAS, the WiFi network is discrete (unattached) all the way to the telco closet anyhow.  After you’ve run parallel networks to the telco closet, how much do you really gain by combining WiFi on the DAS for the last 300 ft of coax?
  2. You will take an RF power hit when combining services with couplers / injectors.
  3. WiFi over a DAS makes life miserable for the integrator who installs or manages the DAS.  If a DAS breaks, it’s relatively easy to determine if the problem is signal source, cabling, or DAS electronics.  If WiFi doesn’t work properly the troubleshooting spans a wide range including unlicensed spectrum, unmanaged devices, and unknown applications that the integrator and DAS manufacturer can’t control.

In some cases where a customer really cannot go back into a ceiling location ( casino grand foyer, or operating room ) it can make sense.  However, we’re finding that more and more customers are choosing DAS systems that provide public safety communications, 2-way radio, and commercial wireless services without WiFi.

If you’re worried about making sure you get the most of your DAS investment, we recommend pulling a few extra CAT6 cables to every DAS antenna location.   As network architecture pushes the radios closer to devices, we think we’ll all be glad you did.

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