DAS technology: Wireless pain-relief for tomorrow’s smart buildings

22nd March 2016

Scott Baker, head of new business, NG Bailey’s IT Services division

In today’s continuously connected world, wireless network availability has become as essential a part of modern life as voice calls and email. However, the demands of data-hungry users, particularly in densely populated buildings, are frequently outstripping the capacity of the macro mobile network. In this environment, the growth in number, power and versatility of today’s mobile devices is dramatically increasing data transmissions, overloading the networks. Poor signal coverage is also an issue for the quality of service for data applications and results in intermittent service for end users.

This simply won’t cut it in the smart buildings of tomorrow, which need to be equipped with a wireless infrastructure that can not only handle these loads, but also cope with their continued growth. Historically, mobile operators have been challenged to deliver building-by-building wireless solutions, which is both costly and complex due to the rate of change in technology and frequency bands made available. These considerations, together with the challenges relating to trends in the market, funding models, licensing, and monetisation of the services are driving a shift in the market. Specialist intelligent building system integrators, like NG Bailey, are now responding to rising demand and tackling these problems head on, by providing managed solutions on a property-by-property basis, boosting each building’s quality of GSM wireless service as a result.

By applying technologies like Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) which have, until now, been reserved for more traditional high density, connectivity hungry public places like music venues, sports arenas and airports; integrators are now able to deliver smart building-grade wireless coverage that meets residents’ expectations for fast, ubiquitous and uninterrupted connectivity. This, in turn, provides the building’s owners with a competitive edge; they can market the property itself as a tool that occupying businesses can use to increase staff productivity and reduce operating costs.

There are two other important points to make about DAS. Firstly, modern DAS solutions offer fast and discrete installation over copper or fibre structure cabling systems. Secondly, these modern systems are ideal for deployment in existing properties, not just in new builds. This means that commercial landlords seeking to upgrade their wireless capabilities can retrofit DAS technology with minimal disruption to their building’s infrastructure and its occupants. Rather than ‘rip and replace’, DAS optimises a property’s existing infrastructure assets, enabling multi-tenanted offices to deliver effective and reliable coverage at the lowest planning, implementation and maintenance costs.

Enhancing in-building wireless coverage in this way future proofs the building’s wireless capability, optimising today’s service and readying the property for tomorrow’s hikes in mobile data transmission brought on by initiatives like bring your own device, unified communications, Internet of Things implementations, RFID tracking and more.

A well implemented modern DAS also provides the flexibility to add services on-demand in order to keep costs low. Such is the level of service capability that some property owners are now concluding that they can cater for all of their smart building’s wireless needs via this one solution, supporting a range of IP-converged building systems from door locks to IP-lighting, and air conditioning sensors to alarms. This reduces operating costs substantially and mitigates the disruption of future upgrades to infrastructure.

As the evolution of the smart building continues to redraw the boundaries for in-building network design, a host of new high capacity connectivity options are becoming available to relieve capacity headaches. Arguably DAS is both the most exciting and the most disruptive of these. Building owners, occupying businesses and system integrators alike should be looking carefully at how this exciting new technology can help them prepare their businesses for future.