Taking mobile coverage into indoor spaces with collaborative DAS solutions

Africa mobileDistributed Antenna Systems (DAS) offer a solution to receiving a signal from base stations, which cannot penetrate through glass, concrete and brick. (Image source: whiteafrican)Mobile telephony has revolutionised the way we communicate, both in business and in our personal lives, and South Africa has a well established coverage network that delivers strong signal across the built-up areas of the country, writes Alan Chater, divisional manager of projects at Jasco Carrier RF

The outdoor coverage market is fairly saturated, cellular coverage was not designed for indoor use, and the signal from base stations cannot fully penetrate materials such as glass, concrete and brick.

This means in large homes, office buildings, basement parking areas and shopping centres mobile coverage can be poor to nonexistent.

Since customers demand always on connectivity wherever they happen to be, this lack of signal poses a problem and a challenge for network operators.

Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) offer a solution to this challenge, effectively bringing mobile coverage indoors.

However there is limited real estate within buildings for the cabling, splitting elements and antennas required, and there is also an inconvenience factor involved in installing this infrastructure every time a new operator needs to provide their service within a building.

With the entrance of new players to the cellular market, as well as the imminent roll-out of Long Term Evolution (LTE) coverage, this challenge is only set to increase.

A new, collaborative DAS business model is needed, to both address the need for indoor coverage, as well as make the most of limited space and resources, to deliver seamless, high quality cellular coverage to subscribers, both indoors and out.

Cellular networks are Radio Frequency (RF) based, and higher frequencies such as those used for 3G and LTE coverage do not travel well through concrete, bricks, any type of metal and even tinted glass, which absorbs the signal.

These kinds of materials are highly prevalent in large buildings such as malls and office parks, and even in modern decor.

This means that most of the signal sent out by a base station has been absorbed before it can penetrate into a building, causing dead spots where there is no coverage.

This is particularly noticeable in parking garages, which are mostly concrete and are also often underground, which further decreases signal penetration.

The evolution of social media and a growing demand for always on connectivity, coupled with increased amounts of time spent indoors in office buildings, malls and so on, have driven demand for improved coverage inside of buildings.

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