In-building Cellular Options are the Next Connectivity Battleground

Next Generation Communications Blog

In-building Cellular Options are the Next Connectivity Battleground

By: Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Contributor

The Law of 80 Percent clearly explains why in-building Internet access currently matters a lot. Mobile data traffic grew by roughly 80 percent in 2014, about 80 percent of mobile usage occurred in-building, and 80 percent of WLAN installations are at risk of not being able to handle traffic loads, according to research by ABI and Gartner.

This is a problem as Internet access expectations shift from coverage to quality and capacity. While some form of Internet access is available just about everywhere, there is a huge difference between good Internet and inadequate capacity.

Enterprise cells and indoor small cells can help meet this demand.

In-building cellular Internet can be addressed by three technologies, according to a recent Alcatel-Lucent webinar, Fact vs. Fiction – The Debate on In-Building Architecture Options that can be found on YouTube. These three technologies are distributed radio systems (DRS), distributed antenna systems (DAS), and distributed baseband (also known as small cells technology).

Each technology has its pros and cons when deployment options are considered.

With DAS systems, the benefits include a neutral host, coverage, and well understood technology, according to the Alcatel-Lucent webinar. But it requires dedicated backhaul, and this limits capacity. It also has a high total cost of ownership due to cooling and space requirements.

DRS is good for very high-capacity situations, such as sports stadiums. It also is an early example of cloud random access network architecture. But it is not a neutral host, and it needs unlimited backhaul.

Indoor small cells are perhaps one of the most useful of the three when it comes to in-building cellular. Small cells are easy to scale, use shared backhaul, and are cost-effective for both capacity and some coverage. Yet, small cells also require RF interference management are not a neutral host and is a relatively new technology.

The right mix of technologies depends on the situation.

For instance, DAS is good for public spaces where there is no operator differentiation. This includes shopping, trains, airports and restaurant situations.

DRS, on the other hand is good for retail storefronts and stadiums, since they allow for vendor and operator differentiation.

Small cells make the most sense for private and enterprise in-building cellular needs due to their cost and scalability. Banks, hospitals, factory building and regional headquarters should consider small cells, according to Alcatel-Lucent.

Whatever technology is ultimately chosen, however, the need is clear: In-building cellular is the current battleground, and the need for adequate quality and capacity is crucial.

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