Local jurisdictions around the country are increasingly pushing building owners to install in-building wireless coverage for first responders, while those owners are also seeking better in-building commercial coverage for their tenants.
“Building owners are caught in the crossfire, if you will,” said Seth Buechley, president of distributed antenna provider Solid Technologies. “If I’m going to make an investment in the building’s infrastructure, from the building owner’s perspective, they want it to do two things: meet the requirements for public safety increasingly being placed on them by local ordinance, while being able to leverage it to do other things like provide cellular coverage.”
Although various in-building wireless technologies are being explored for indoor coverage — including small cells and Wi-Fi — Buechley noted that it is a tricky proposition for a system to handle both the common commercial cellular bands (and upgraded to include the Band 14 spectrum that will be utilized by FirstNet for its national public safety network in the future) plus the Land Mobile Radios commonly used by first responders during an incident.
He said that Solid has been working on DAS products that can handle both the lower-frequency LMR and cellular bands, and have overcome that technical challenge while adding only about 10-15% to the cost of the DAS. Now, he said, the real work is in synchronizing the best practices of both cellular and public safety wireless.
One of the big potential stumbling blocks that Buechley sees for public safety is that if public safety networks like FirstNet’s are built in the same mold as current commercial cellular networks, from the outside in. Mobile operators used to focus primarily on outdoor coverage, but usage has shifted indoors as people increasingly cut their landline access and rely more and more on their wireless devices. So in-building coverage has become more of an issue and solutions such as DAS, Wi-Fi and small cells being explored and installed more than ever. Buechley said that the public safety community needs to address in-building coverage up-front.
“It would be a shame if we’re still talking about how we’re providing in-building coverage for first responders a decade from now,” Buechley said.
For more perspective on LTE public safety networks, RCR’s Jeff Mucci spoke with Chris Stark, head of business development at Nokia Siemens Networks, on the status of those networks.
Another video DAS case study from Solid: