In brief: That’s not easy information to get and, on price, there are a lot of variables
The distributed antenna system (DAS) space, for both passive and active systems, is a highly-competitive market. As part of our ongoing efforts to provide commercial real estate industry professionals with relevant coverage of in-building wireless technologies, we recently compared active and passive DAS. In that piece, we used pricing estimates provided by an established industry vendor to project the per-square-foot cost of a multi-carrier active DAS. Based on feedback from our readers, that estimate was in line with what the industry is currently supporting. As such, we’re going to take a closer look at pricing for active DAS.
There are two things to know going into this conversation: first, vendors keep pricing information closely-guarded; and, two, there are a huge number of variables, some difficult to estimate, that figure into the overall cost of a DAS deployment.
Some of the major factors here come down to the type of building—A DAS for a huge, concrete stadium with lots of underground and back-of-house space is a very different radio environment than a typical office building with cubicles, meeting and break rooms. Following from that, these two scenarios have very different planning and design then, after commissioning, optimization work that has to be done. Another factor is the DAS architecture. A virtualized RAN can cut some equipment costs, but, if you’re using a traditional base transceiver station, savings can be realized through pooling radio equipment in a centralized location.
Jay Cutler, regional director, South Region, for Airwavz Solutions, responded to Connected’s questions regarding comparative DAS pricing and the major cost points that factor into the total cost. Airwavz Solutions designs, develops, owns and operates in-building systems for building owners, enterprises and service providers.
Q: What are the primary cost drivers of an active DAS deployment, including planning/design and optimization?
A: “Labor remains the primary driver for both active and passive systems. Active DAS components can equate to 25% of the total cost if design is [weak] or driven by people interested in selling equipment in quantity.”
Q: Could you estimate the average, industry-wide cost of a four-carrier active DAS deployment?
A: “Tricky question. If the property is DIY it can be $2.00 to $2.50-per-square-foot depending on building type. This, of course, does not account for maintenance, monitoring, upgrades and operations of the system over time. This is straight construction/commissioning cost. Typical integrator-installed systems can be between $1.50 and $2 a square foot if the design is good. Same long-term cost[s] are not included in this number. A good [third-party operator] can get this cost down to 70- to 90-cents a square foot for construction and total all-in cost for maintenance, monitoring, upgrades, operations and construction to below $1.40 a square foot.”
Q: Can you share any details of how your company approaches active DAS pricing in terms of major considerations that factor into developing a cost structure?
A: “As a [third-party operator] we approach pricing quite a bit differently than most. We are not concerned about making a margin on the install of equipment or the sale of equipment. This being the case allows us to be able to be agnostic in our approach to type of active DAS, OEM, and who we get reimbursed by and what the timeline is. We have the freedom to choose between DAS [vendors and architectures]. We also use BTS hoteling, which is another cost savings.”
Q: How are trends toward virtualization of the RAN, a major in-building theme highlighted during Mobile World Congress 2018, reshaping the economics and costs of DAS deployments?
A: “Virtualized networks are going to help with speed of deployment and reduce some of the cost. However, the infrastructure required in the properties will always be the main cost driver. You will always need to deliver the RF to the edge through cabling and antennas. The RF source can definitely [be] modified and moved around and virtualized, but it is not the main driver of the cost.”
Q: How are DAS vendors responding to the market need for a high-quality solution at an increasingly lower price point?
A: “Slowly, but that is why D-RAN variants are coming into vogue in [the] commercial space—it eliminates the need for OEM DAS components. This is forcing the OEMs to invent better mouse traps and figure out how to compete on price and RF band delivery.”
So as in many things in life, when it comes to DAS pricing- it depends? Yes, Kia, Ford, Cadillac, BMW or Ferrari, what do you need and what do you want? What will get the job done now versus what will get the job done long term? There should always be a well thought out plan with plenty of consultation with experts to determine what is in the best interest of the property owner.
What is clear is that there are many variables and intangibles that go into selecting the right solution and these products are far from commoditized. When it comes to figuring out what exactly your building needs make sure you pick a great partner that knows all the choices.
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