There have been two DAS conferences in the last month:
- DAS in Action, New Orleans, April 2013
- DAS and Small Cell Conference, Las Vegas, April
The DAS industry seems to be evolving quickly to adapt to Small Cells and the demand for capacity rather than coverage. The most visible examples of this are the retitling of the DAS Conference to include Small Cells, and the renaming/rebranding of the DAS Forum as the HetNet Forum.
When announcing the name change, the Forum explained that their scope includes everything non-macrocell, from repeaters and small cells through to DAS. I think it would be fair to say that the organisation is somewhat smaller than the Small Cell Forum, and I would not expect it to be competing directly with it even though there is some scope overlap.
DAS only commercial viable in specific cases
Verizon Wireless said they prefer to deploy Multi-Operator DAS and even then, it isn't cost-effective for small or medium sized buildings. Their RoI model doesn't show it being worthwhile to use for apartment buildings.
Both Verizon and AT&T said they prefer carrier neutral systems because the costs can be shared, giving an example from the SuperDome deployment.
One property developer said they had been quoted price points between $350K and $500K for operators to install DAS in their new developments. They recognise the added value that good cellular coverage provides for their customers but are looking for less expensive solutions.
Ian Gilllot of iGR explained how LTE networks and data devices have changed the usage of mobile networks, illustrating with some real-world traffic patterns which show peaks during commuting times and lunch breaks. He emphasises just how dramatic the traffic growth has been (and continues to be), walking through the justification for small cells and advanced LTE techniques to meet demand.
His full 1 hour presentation is publicly available to view on YouTube
Operator view from the field
Keynote speaker Scott Semone from Verizon Wireless's MTS - RF Maintenance & Engineering group talked about some very down-to-earth, real-world aspects of network deployment. The Small Cell part of this talk between about 09:00 to 18:00 minutes in is worth a quick view.
He believes that replacement of existing signal repeaters represents the best "low hanging fruit" to increase capacity. Originally deployed to improve inbuilding coverage, they are now seeing that entire sectors becoming blocked due to capacity demand. The street level outside becomes choked by repeaters trying to reach in-building, affecting pedestrians outdoors as well as those inside the building.
Another strategy involves "Harvesting out eNodeBs" which require a lot of extra air conditioning, swapping them out for small cells and relocating them elsewhere
When considering locations for new small cells, they are trying to find places where field techs can get to the equipment safely and avoid needing to send out a tower crew or cherry-picker. There is a concern using utility poles with live electricity cables.
How does a hotel chain deal with in-building wireless and what is the commercial impact of poor indoor connectivity? RCR Wireless interviewed Fernando Perez of Marriott International who pointed out the challenges associated with installing and maintaining systems in buildings with expensive furnishings and rooms that, if they are unavailable to customers, can cost a property hundreds of dollars a day in lost revenue.
Full set of conference videos
If you have time, RCR Wireless have published full video recordings of all the presentations from DAS in Action.