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DAS in Action: ‘If it’s not nailed to a tower, it’s a small cell’

It’s a busy world in DAS right now – this week marked the HetNet Forum’s DAS in Action conference, and next week is the DAS & Small Cells Congress in Las Vegas.

Iain Gillot of research firm iGR offered perhaps the most expansive view of the small cell ecosystem at DAS in Action, saying that “if it’s not nailed to a tower, it’s a small cell.” And that definition includes equipment like signal boosters and repeaters, which generally don’t get talked about in the same realm as picos and femtos.

Gillot also illustrated a particularly difficult aspect of the data crunch: that the data tsunami that everyone talks about, with an exponential curve, is actually just an average of data use. At peak times and in certain locations, carriers are facing as much as 15-times increase in data usage and their networks simply can’t cope.

We need small cells, Gillot said, because there simply aren’t any other options. The industry isn’t going to be able to build a slew of new macro sites, and probably isn’t going to get much new spectrum any time soon. So small cells have to work.

You can check out Iain’s keynote on video.

He gave RCR some additional commentary as well.

If anything else was apparent from this week, it’s just how tricky small cell installations can be. The tour of the French Quarter DAS installation from Crown Castle showed the cast-iron or polycarbonate cylindrical towers that were all but ignored by passersby, but that took years of negotiations to install. Inside the New Orleans Ritz, the antennas for its DAS system were unobtrusive, but Fernando Perez of Marriott International pointed out the challenges associated with installing and maintaining systems in buildings with expensive furnishings and rooms that, if they are unavailable to customers, can cost a property hundreds of dollars a day in lost revenue.

For more details on Marriott’s wireless strategy, watch this video.

For all of our DAS in Action videos from the conference, see here.

ABOUT AUTHOR

Kelly Hill
Kelly reports on network test and measurement, as well as the use of big data and analytics. She first covered the wireless industry for RCR Wireless News in 2005, focusing on carriers and mobile virtual network operators, then took a few years’ hiatus and returned to RCR Wireless News to write about heterogeneous networks and network infrastructure. Kelly is an Ohio native with a masters degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley, where she focused on science writing and multimedia. She has written for the San Francisco Chronicle, The Oregonian and The Canton Repository. Follow her on Twitter: @khillrcr

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