Although there are no reliable statistics indicating the percentage of new commercial buildings with or without landlines, it is a well-known fact that certain building material can either reflect or absorb radio frequency signals that power cell phones, negatively impacting signal strength indoors. This is a big deal when you’re a startup that relies on connectivity to power the research and development of your products.
This was the case for San Diego-based technology company Water Pigeon, which delivers a secure way to implement automated water metering over cellular networks. The company is a startup within the EvoNexus incubator program, which provides class A office, lab, and conference space to its startups.
When EvoNexus recently moved into its new, second-floor space in San Diego, the incubator gained a modern, 18,000 sq. ft. collaborative workspace. However, due to AT&T cellular tower locations, some of its startups lost or experienced weak cellular coverage.
“EvoNexus houses over 100 people on the second floor doing intensive hardware and software engineering, and AT&T subscribers could only get one bar on their phones when they stood in a certain area. Everywhere else, there was no coverage whatsoever,” explains Clay Melugin, CEO of Water Pigeon, an EvoNexus startup. “Not only was this very inconvenient, but it was problematic for those of us who rely on cellular coverage to run our business.”
EvoNexus co-founder and CEO Rory Moore chose Cel-Fi QUATRA™, an enterprise in-building cellular coverage solution, to resolve these issues.
“Cel-Fi QUATRA is an ideal solution for middleprise organizations like EvoNexus because it’s affordable and can grow with us,” says Moore. “The ability to manage it remotely from the cloud makes it a no-fuss, no-muss solution, which enables us to focus our energies on the startups under our wings.”
At the hub of the Cel-Fi QUATRA solution is a Network Unit (NU), which provides the cellular signal to Coverage Units (CU), the remote radio heads that rebroadcast the signal. Because QUATRA is a fully digital solution that utilizes Power over Ethernet (PoE) and RF over Ethernet (RFoE), it delivers 1,000 times stronger cellular signal than older analog technology, providing uniform cellular connection throughout the building with no signal loss from the NU to the CUs. The CUs can be easily placed where needed without installing new power outlets or the expensive fiber required by traditional Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) that are designed for larger venues, making installation much faster and less costly.
EvoNexus deployed three CUs, and a Cel-Fi MIMO panel antenna that was mounted indoors on an outside-facing pillar. Coax cables were connected to existing Cat5e infrastructure, accelerating the installation process.
“The Nextivity team was very efficient, and had Cel-Fi QUATRA installed and working in half a day,” says Chuck Pateros, Chief Technologist at EvoNexus. “Although it was placed out of sight, Cel-Fi QUATRA had an immediate impact on our startups’ ability to get cellular coverage from any location on the floor.”
As soon as Cel-Fi QUATRA was powered on, Melugin walked around the floor to see the results for himself. “Suddenly, everyone had three or four bars of coverage,” he says. “The arrival of Cel-Fi QUATRA means that we don’t have to search for new office space.”
Battery life on people’s phones has also been extended now that signal strength in and out of the building are equal. Prior to Cel-Fi QUATRA, transmitting signal from the outside—through the glass building—taxed battery life. “At the end of the day, I would only have 15% battery life left,” says Melugin. “Now, I have 60%.”
EvoNexus is aware that a reliable, high-quality indoor signal can help the incubator attract more startups.
“These days, cellular infrastructure is an important component to a startup’s success. With Cel-Fi QUATRA, we can now provide this value-add to our companies,” says Moore.
Melugin takes this sentiment a step further. “Cellular coverage,” he says, “is more critical than Internet access. Without it, it’s impossible to thrive.”
Learn more about this active DAS hybrid solution here.