Disruptive DAS: Smaller companies challenge traditional vendors

Just Home Property is an investment group that buys and operates residential apartment buildings in major metropolitan areas. The company owners are well aware that tenants want their smartphones to work in their apartments, and they also are well aware that wireless carriers will not pay to install distributed antennas in their buildings. But when Just Home looked at paying for the systems itself, it got quotes ranging from 70 cents to $3 per square foot.
“These are easily mid-six-digit projects,” said Just Home buyer Jeff Wachner. “There are a lot of square feet, even in relatively small apartment buildings.”
Systems integrators that design and build distributed antenna systems are running up against the same challenges, and cost is not the only obstacle for enterprises. Wireless Information Networks, which develops DAS for class A office buildings, said that building owners are confused about different technologies and capabilities.
“It’s a crazy time in the DAS industry,” said Andrew Maier, VP of emerging technologies at Wireless Information Networks. “The building owners … need help trying to decipher what’s going to be the appropriate path for the future. Really what we’re seeing is that no one really has a grasp on that yet.”
“Our value to our clients is really to provide clarity and help them from an educational perspective,” said WIN CEO Thomas Crotty. “I think that as the evolution of the technology takes place you’re going to see more and more solutions that are going to be germane to the tenant experience.”
New solutions
New solutions are coming from traditional DAS providers as well as from new entrants determined to deliver DAS at a price point that works for the enterprise buyer. Buildings of 50,000 to 500,000 square feet, the so-called “middleprise” buildings, are those that are big enough to need a DAS but not big enough to merit carrier investment. SOLiD, CommScope, Corning and other traditional DAS vendors are aggressively targeting this space, and so are smaller players like Whoop Wireless, Dali Wireless and Zinwave.
Whoop Wireless, formed by a merger of INcomm and Zone Access Technology, claims to have the first DAS developed specifically for the middleprise. Bob Butchko, Whoop’s VP of business development, said Whoop’s DAS solution was developed in Silicon Valley to target the enterprise buyer.
“Nobody’s made a product for the middleprise until now, and that’s what Whoop has done,” said Butchko. “From the ground up, from the very beginning, with no influence by the carriers or anyone else, we’ve built a DAS product for the enterprise.”
Butchko said Whoop has reduced the traditional DAS head-end to a $2,500 “cigar box size” device that can be mounted on a wall and connected to roof-mounted donor antennas. Cable connects the head-end to active indoor nodes equipped with low-noise amplifiers. Butchko said the entire system can be installed for less than $1 per square foot, and that operating costs are controlled by self-optimizing network technology that regulates power use.
Dali Wireless is another Silicon Valley company targeting the DAS market. The company was founded to digitize distributed antenna systems and it calls its solution an RF router. The company is currently designing and building an all-digital public safety DAS covering all five terminals at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.
Zinwave is a DAS vendor that has recently brought on new leadership as it targets the enterprise market. The company’s hardware converts RF signals to optical and then connects via fiber to its active point of interface, which is a miniature version of the traditional DAS head-end. Like Whoop Wireless, Zinwave offers a solution that can support all four major carriers.
“It’s a single platform that can cover all spectrum bands globally,” explained Zinwave CEO Scott Willis. “Because of that technology and the cost point it’s going to be a very attractive solution for the enterprise market segment.”
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*Reprinted with permission

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