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Understanding the cost considerations of in-building wireless


Nextivity CEO Werner Sievers discusses drivers of IBW capex and opex

After years of focused market education and outreach, building owners and enterprise decision makers have arrived at the realization that in-building wireless connectivity is an essential part of enabling business value in increasingly mobile workplace environments.

There’s a broad set of solutions available on the market including signal boosters, small cells, active distributed antenna systems, and hybrid solutions. While stadia-type venues and multi-million-square-foot commercial real estate command the investment in high-end, fiber-based active DAS, the largest and arguably most underserved market segment consists of much smaller spaces less than 500,000-square feet like hospitals, hotels, manufacturing facilities, warehousing space, and professional offices. For this middleprise market, cost is a primary consideration, Nextivity CEO Werner Sievers said in a recent conversation with RCR Wireless News.

Sievers noted that carrier investment in in-building systems is in a lull, so the building owner or enterprise has to take on the capital expense. He laid out the three primary cost elements associated with in-building wireless: “It’s the capital equipment cost of the active components. There’s the cable cost. And then, of course, that last component is labor.”

The equipment required depends heavily on the type of venue. Hospitals, apartment complexes, and hospitality or hotel environments are all quite different, Sievers explains. Nextivity’s Cel-Fi QUATRA was designed as a scalable solution that can be configured with the number of head ends and remote units that work best for uniform coverage in each unique space, and connected with Cat 5 or Cat 6 cabling. The combined impact of clean design and low-cost cabling is a reduction in labor costs.

Cabling “is a very representative piece of the cost,” Sievers said. “The labor associated with installing fiber is higher than it is to install coaxial, which is higher than installing Cat 5 or Cat 6 cable.”

Generally speaking, a building owner will engage a system integrator to design and install an in-building system, meaning that Nextivity’s primary customers are system integrators. Once that team has deployed an in-building system, operational costs are another important factor in total cost of ownership.

Sievers described three primary components of operating an in-building wireless system. “Is there an in-building signal source at that particular venue and does it necessitate dedicate backhaul of some description? Then there’s effective remote management. Can the entire infrastructure in the venue be managed remotely so a truck roll is not needed in the event of a failure? Thirdly, passive DAS systems tend to require optimization over time and you have to roll a truck to get an installer to manually re-optimize the system.”

“Our primary objective was to design a system that will enable someone–a reseller, an installer, a system integrator–to be competitive in their marketplace. So Cel-Fi QUATRA will couple to a signal source. It’ll partner with a small cell, thereby creating a Supercell. We’ve moved to a significantly sophisticated cloud-based diagnostic platform. And then, because of the intelligence of our system, there is no need for us to do any manual type of optimization. So, on all counts, once you’ve installed our class of technology, there really isn’t a need to go back and roll a truck unless you have a hardware failure. And I think that brings an intensive opex cost down to a minimal.”

The remote management component is a very important factor as it relates directly to opex as well as quality of experience. In a mobile-first or otherwise cellular-enabled business environment, the downtime associated with a truck roll and on-site repair work can have a very real impact on profitability. Nextivity’s approach to this key capability is the Cel-Fi WAVE Platform, which is a cloud-based solution for device and asset management, data modeling and reporting, mobile and computer apps, and carrier-grade security.

For more information on Nextivity’s Cel-Fi QUATRA active DAS hybrid, as well as discussion of the dynamics shaping the in-building wireless market, the attendant regulatory landscape and evolution toward 5G, watch the interview with Sievers and RCR Wireless News Editor in Chief Sean Kinney.

To see examples of how integrators have reduced the capex and opex of in-building coverage solutions for their customers with Cel-Fi QUATRA, download some recent case studies here.