Like other essential businesses, installers of Cel-Fi in-building cellular coverage solutions have had to adjust to the unprecedented changes in the business world amid the pandemic.
After shelter-in-place orders were given, some commercial buildings were emptied and locked, while others remained open. Many commercial in-building system installations long planned were put on hold.
But as things became clearer on how to keep essential workers safe and reduce population contagion, private and public entities also recognized that with buildings empty, it was a good time to resolve any problems existing in facilities prior to the shutdown. This way, construction or much needed upgrades and repairs would be complete when employees, students, and customers returned.
During this time, Cel-Fi system integrators have been busy – in office buildings, multi-tenant residences, medical facilities, grocery and retail stores, and at warehouses and schools – installing cellular coverage solutions to help keep everyone connected once communities emerge from lockdown.
How Solution Providers Adapted
Steve Klingensmith, owner of VAST Signal Booster Solutions based in North Carolina, explains, “As there are fewer people working in buildings, now is the time to run the cable infrastructure and get things installed because it’s less of a business disruption to tenants. Many buildings are moving forward with their installations if they had money budgeted for it prior to the shutdown.”
VAST recently completed installing a Cel-Fi QUATRA Active DAS Hybrid solution for a tenant who is remodeling their office space in a multi-tenant building in Maryland while their employees are working from home. The client is remodeling two-thirds of one floor of the five-story building, while the other third of the floor is occupied by another tenant with employees physically occupying the premises.
“We had to do a daily COVID-19 jobsite certification checklist, attesting all our crew members were free from any symptoms. We had to do social distancing, we all had to wear masks and the tenants did too,” Klingensmith says. “It was a little slower process. We were limited to four people in an elevator, three people in the LAN room, two people in a bathroom, and we kept spread out. Overall, it took about 20 percent more time than normal to do the job, but as it is so fast to install Cel-Fi QUATRA, we were able to get in and out within two days.”
Cel-Fi Solutions: Not Only Better Quality, But More Cost Effective
VAST also recently completed installing Cel-Fi QUATRA in a 650,000 sq. ft. distribution center in Arizona. There are approximately 100 employees still working in the facility, spread throughout the warehouse and office space, who were having trouble placing or receiving cellular calls. With the inability to call one another, a manager would have to walk out to the employee’s location in the warehouse, consuming as much as 20 minutes to deliver a communication or get an answer, instead of taking just 20 to 30 seconds on a phone call.
The distribution center wanted to rapidly install a cellular coverage system at the lowest possible cost. After VAST conducted an extensive walk test showing the areas of strong and weak coverage, they proposed Cel-Fi QUATRA as the solution that would provide the best coverage for the lowest cost per square foot.
“If we had installed a wide band passive DAS solution – with all the antennas, amplifiers, and cabling that would be needed for a facility this size – the cost on labor alone would have been more than the entire Cel-Fi QUATRA solution,” Klingensmith says. “QUATRA gives a very strong, consistent signal, the best on the market, which is also a major factor in the lower cost per square foot on the installation.”
Healthcare: An Increased Priority for Cellular Coverage Solutions
Hospitals have also moved forward with cellular coverage solution installations during the pandemic. Mercy Hospital has a 228K sq. ft. facility currently under construction in Oklahoma City. The Mercy Hospital general contractor asked AT&T to recommend a system integrator who could provide the cellular coverage solution needed at the new facility and was referred to RF Design Services.
Jerry Bickle, President of RF Design Services based in Oklahoma, has resolved cellular coverage issues in several hospitals. He explains, “Doctors at hospitals are having trouble getting texts from nurses about patients that need their attention. All the doctors and nurses are using their cell phones now to help with patient care. Mercy Hospital knew there would be a problem at their new facility in Oklahoma City so wanted to install a solution before the facility opens.”
Bickle says he proposed Cel-Fi QUATRA for the new facility for multiple reasons. “QUATRA is already carrier approved for installation by professional installers as it won’t cause network interference, which has been a problem with every other in-building solution. And any time you have to get carrier approval, it adds complexity and a lot of time to the project – as much as eight to nine months.”
Cel-Fi Solutions: Not Only Better Performance, But the Fastest to Install
“Cel-Fi QUATRA uses Cat 5e cable so it is faster and cheaper to install, with the same signal propagation throughout the building as it is less lossy than coax cable. Category cable also takes a lot less time to install. With all the factors combined, the cost of an installed QUATRA solution is about a third of an active DAS. QUATRA even costs less to operate than an active DAS as it doesn’t generate the heat, electrical, or air conditioning loads of that bigger equipment,” Bickle explains.
During the installation, RF Design Services had to put special safety procedures in place for COVID-19 mitigation – in addition to wearing face masks, staff temperatures were checked every day and they were given a wrist band or sticker for their safety helmets to show they were cleared. And sometimes the elevators were out of service for construction or social distancing reasons. But these restrictions weren’t much greater than the scrubs and masks that the team had to use when they installed Cel-Fi in a surgical room this past December before the pandemic.
While the pandemic continues to define the new normal, in-building cellular connectivity remains as essential as ever. Cel-Fi system integrators are effectively working with carriers, building owners, and IT staff to deploy solutions within mitigation guidelines to provide better cellular coverage for safer facilities and more efficient operations.
For more information on Nextivity’s comprehensive product line that fits virtually every in-building cellular coverage use case, download “The Ultimate Buyer’s Guide to Solving Cellular Coverage Issues”.
About the Author
Dean Richmond is the Senior Director of Marketing at Nextivity. Over the span of his career, he has developed strategies and launched products across the information technology and wireless product spectrum. Dean has built strategic partnerships between channel partners, operators, broadband providers, and brands such as Microsoft, Google, Intel, Sony, and Toshiba to grow business units successfully. For more information, contact [email protected] or visit www.cel-fi-com