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Most of us are familiar with “wireless triangulation,” which involves identifying the approximate location of a wireless device using IEEE 802.11 standards. But there’s a different type of wireless triangulation, which has little to do with developing technology but everything with forging solid, long-standing relationships that can serve as the basis for massive, multiple, large-scale distributed antenna system deployments.
These relationships comprise operators, vendors and integrators. The connection between each drives large, labor-intensive deployments … such as one recently undertaken in Indianapolis in preparation for this year’s Super Bowl.
Super-sized installations require special teams
Multi-venue deployments like the one instituted in Indianapolis – consisting of a sports arena, an airport, convention center, hotels and hospitals – cover hundreds of thousands of square feet across locations throughout cities, and cannot be managed by one organization alone. This means that:
–Wireless operators must work with a reliable DAS provider who can implement a scalable, flexible solution supporting cellular advancements like 4G LTE.
–DAS providers need to develop strong ties to operators while creating and fostering a robust partner ecosystem, complete with trusted integrators who can help bring plans to fruition. These organizations can be instrumental in facilitating the implementation of solutions due to their skills.
–Integrators must align with DAS providers who have the expertise and technology to be able to meet the needs of both operators and facilities in which the DAS is installed.
For at least a few days in early 2012, Indianapolis became the epicenter of some of the largest and most bandwidth-hungry wireless traffic in the entire country. Anticipating this, a blueprint was drawn up outlining one of the largest multi-venue DAS installations in history.
Was it effective? Yes. Easy? Well …
Plans were put in place to ensure that when Super Bowl Sunday arrived fans and media would be able to experience uninterrupted cellular service, including flawless voice and fast data speeds. But while these plans began well before the playoffs commenced, work didn’t begin at some venues until mid-December, leaving roughly six weeks for installers to perform site walks, ship equipment and begin laying the infrastructure for installation. This did not include the time it would take to test the system and ensure its efficacy.
As such, LTE speeds weren’t the only fast things needed. Deployment time was of the essence, requiring an all-hands approach from all parties involved.
The ball carriers
Even with the explosive popularity of smartphones and tablets, carriers face limited growth opportunities. Cell phones are ubiquitous, so the key to maintaining a successful revenue stream is to sell customers on new devices and services, keeping them from switching to a competitor with the latest and greatest gear.
Customers are fickle beasts, and there are many reasons for them to switch providers; but quality of service remains the biggest elephant in the room. Operators only have so much control over service quality, as cellular signals quickly deteriorate in large, enclosed spaces or locations seeing heavy data and voice traffic.
Given this, it’s not surprising that operators drove the need for DAS solutions throughout Indianapolis locations. After all, if operators’ networks didn’t provide the expected services, bad publicity and customer churn could potentially ensue. That’s why some leading wireless operators had, on average, 50 to 60 people on the ground in Indianapolis testing systems. AT&T itself announced that it made a significant investment in the installation of the DAS at the football stadium, with a system designed to carry more traffic than 10 cell sites.
Shopping for a DAS is not high on operator lists; it’s much easier to simply tap a trusted provider they have worked with before. Getting to this point requires a shared history and proven relationship built on past successes that provide the operator with the sense a company has the resources and the expertise to make a project work.
There are also technical aspects that must be considered. For example, equipment must be subject to extensive testing, be approved by multiple groups internally and certified for use on the network. Each of these factors come into play.
The coaching staff
Designing and installing a DAS is an expertise in its own right. Providers don’t necessarily have the resources to support a multi-venue project, particularly one on a tight timeline. This is where integrators play a key role.
Integrators are instrumental in the creation of a sizeable deployment, especially when designing, commissioning and optimizing a large number of systems. Integrators provide valuable expertise pertaining to many aspects necessary to a successful installation, including radio frequency design. They also possess an advanced project management skill set geared specifically toward coordinating big projects.
Much of the work done in the facilities throughout Indianapolis was actually spearheaded by various integrators. Their efforts ran from analyzing existing radio frequency signal strength to being heavily involved in walk-throughs, mounting and installing equipment, testing and more.
The final play
Like the game itself, many aspects of the deployment came down to the wire. In the end, DAS systems were successfully installed at Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis International Airport, the Indiana Convention Center, eight hotels, two medical centers and the Indianapolis Colts training facility. The result was strong, uninterrupted wireless coverage throughout – something that will continue to benefit Indianapolis residents and visitors for years to come.
The effort showed that just as there is more than one way to consider wireless triangulation, there’s another way to consider wireless networking. It’s not just about the technology, it’s about old-fashioned relationship building; and that’s the ultimate cornerstone for any super-sized DAS deployment.