Connected Real Estate Magazine - Vol 1 Issue 2 - 15
here are two new in-building wireless
trends that developers,building owners,
and commercial property managers
should understand; femtocells/small
cells and BYOD.
Femtocells or small cells are the next
big thing in the quest to deliver more
robust yet less costly cellular coverage
to commercial buildings. As wireless
data consumption has exploded, the
carriers can no longer provide the
required throughput or capacity from
cell towers. As a result, the carriers
have become increasingly reluctant
to approve retransmission agreements
which are required for systems which
captured signals from cell towers using
rooftop antennas. The quality of service from these over-the-air systems is
also being degraded as capacity from
the cell towers becomes more limited.
Consequently, small cells which are
miniaturized, low powered cell towers,
in most cases easily brought on-line
by an existing Internet connection
are becoming the preferred method
of providing cellular coverage and
capacity to mid-sized, commercial
Most commercial office or residential tenants own multiple wireless
cellular devices from multiple carriers.
They use their devices interchangeably
for personal and work related communications making the "company phone"
a thing of the past. Employers sanction
this practice by referring to it as "bring
your own device" or BYOD.
USING SMALL CELLS FOR
Femtocells or small cells have been
touted as a panacea for in-building
coverage and several years now. As a
single-carrier solution they are certainly proving their worth; lower cost,
easy to deploy with much less, if any,
time-consuming and cumbersome carrier interaction.
A building can use multiple
small cells, one for each
carrier, and connect them
to a distributed antenna
system (DAS), which will
evenly distribute the signal
throughout the structure from
a single head-end location.
As with everything, there are a couple draw backs. First, small cells used
for commercial in building wireless are
just emerging as a viable signal source.
The carriers and their suppliers have
taken years to develop the technology
and distribution channels. Not all of
the carriers have made small cells available to customers.
Second, these small cells are single-carrier affairs. To date, they only
transmit and receive on one carrier's
bands/frequencies. This creates a
problem when a building needs all
four major carriers as BYOD becomes
Having all four major carriers on
board would dictate four small cells or
a combination or small cells and overthe-air service from cell towers. That's
not too bad if you have a single story
small building. However, let's say you
have a typical middleprise building of
100K square feet on four floors.
Using small cells would probably
require a small cell for each carrier on
each floor. Say that three carriers are
served in the building by small cells
and that one carrier is served over the
air. The configuration then would be
three small cells on four floors or a
total of twelve small cells; twenty four
if two small cells are required for each
carrier per floor. This configuration is
really not practical for a whole host
of reasons including the cost of the
required redundant small cells and
cabling and the aesthetic impacts of
Fortunately, there is an alternative.
A building can use multiple small
cells, one for each carrier, and connect
them to a distributed antenna system
(DAS), which will evenly distribute
the signal throughout the structure
from a single head-end location. That
configuration produces a BYOD
system that uses three small cells not
twelve or twenty four for that 100K
square foot building. This configuration yields a more reliable and more
even distribution of signal.
To date, some of the DAS manufacturers have created a small cell
interface, as a front-end to their
existing distributed antenna systems.
These newly created front ends allow