By Todd Zuccato, Smart City’s General Manager at the Phoenix Convention Center
Distributed Antenna System (DAS) is a distributed network of components designed to deliver cellular signal throughout a facility, similar to how a cell tower covers a neighborhood. In big facilities like convention centers, allocating high quality wireless signal can cause unique challenges. The main goal is to get the antennas as close to the user as possible. This allows a larger number of users to be attached to the system, and for more bandwidth to be available for each device to use.
In measuring the quality of any wireless system, the two common metrics used are coverage and capacity. Take a look at how these metrics are affected in a public venue setting:
Coverage – Public venues face challenges with coverage. Specifically, convention centers can have a significant coverage challenge due to the nature of their construction. Physical objects, such as concrete and metal, which are used heavily in convention center design, degrade a radio frequency (RF) signal by reflecting or absorbing it. For convention center guests, receiving a signal within an area surrounded by these barriers can be difficult.
Capacity – To understand the challenge of capacity, consider the function of a neighborhood cell tower. Although a cell tower can cover a large area with high capacity, it can become overburdened when the geographic location and user density increase. This results in dropped calls and slow data rates.
THE DAS SOLUTIONS
Here’s how a Distributed Antenna System solves the two challenges for large public venues:
Coverage – By distributing antennas throughout the facility, a DAS can quickly overcome absorption and reflection challenges. Strategic antenna placements throughout the facility create a line-of-sight (LOS) or a near-line-of-sight (NLOS) signal path between the device and the antenna, eliminating the impact on the signal caused by concrete and metal.
Capacity – The DAS system is engineered specifically for a dense usage environment. It can extend cellular network coverage and capacity in high traffic areas at large venues. This gives users higher call quality and faster data rates that would be otherwise unavailable from a local tower.
In this day and age, connectivity is crucial. A DAS is just one of many instruments in the technology toolbox that makes sure we are online wherever we go.