Cutting in-building wireless capex and opex with virtualization

Cobham Wireless DAS supports virtualized radio access network for in-building wireless

Buildings, and the people that live and work inside them, need quality in-building wireless connectivity. In addition to typical mobile broadband use cases—checking email on your phone, making a call, paying a credit card bill—in-building cellular also serves as the connectivity foundation for internet of things-type projects that can increase building efficiencies by using sensors to dim lights in unoccupied rooms, for instance.

Given the need, commercial real estate owners as well as mobile network providers, invest heavily in in-building wireless systems. Distributed antenna systems, which can support multiple carriers, are the gold standard for in-building. As such, DASs are expensive. And, as operators decrease spend on in-building, that puts the impetus on building owners to invest in DAS. With these dynamics, network infrastructure vendors are working to take capital and operational cost out of DAS systems to drive deployment and lower the barrier to entry.

One way to do this is by virtualizing equipment. This is a mega-trend in the telecom world—replacing expensive, proprietary equipment with dynamic, software-based systems that run on comparatively inexpensive generic hardware. In keeping with this trend, infrastructure vendor Cobham Wireless this week announced it has integrated its intelligent digital distributed antenna system (idDAS) with a virtualized radio access network (vRAN) architecture.

Cobham’s VP of Coverage Rami Hasarchi explains: “Operators are facing a capacity challenge, and with more people using high-bandwidth services and the number of IoT applications growing, this will only increase. Virtualizing the RAN for in-building coverage offers the ideal solution to this problem, maximizing spectrum efficiency and end-user experience, while vastly reducing running costs. Integrating vRAN capabilities into our idDAS is an exciting step forward on the road to 5G, delivering flexibility to operators and enterprises, and a means of future-proofing their businesses.”

With a vRAN, instead of having a baseband unit (BBU), which would sit in a building’s basement, you have what’s essentially an off-the-shelf server that lives in a data center-type environment. According to Cobham, integrating its DAS with vRAN architecture “produces a cost- and energy-efficient, 5G-ready solution.”

Cobham’s idDAS provides indoor and outdoor coverage and capacity; a big differentiator that Cobham highlights with this product is the ability to provision capacity based on demand. In practice, that would mean a DAS system that serves a mixed-use commercial/residential space, for example, would shift capacity needs to support office uses during business hours, and residential needs at other times. According to Cobham, “No more hardwiring of capacity to provision for peak demand. No more building a network where chunks of capacity remain unused a large proportion of the time. Your capacity can breathe and move with demand.”

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