Real Estate and 5G converge to drive DAS and Small Cell Deployment Practice


DAS (Distributed Antenna Systems) and Small Cell technology deployment is the new frontier of wireless which promises leading edge gains in coverage and capacity, as well defining the preferred platform for deployment of 5G. Sabre is involved in all aspects of DAS and Small Cell rollouts, and has created best in class products and services that are unique and that facilitate resolving the challenges facing DAS and Small Cell deployment. Both technologies are placing transmission equipment closer to devices and customers, in particular when compared to traditional macro equipment placement. Hence the need for high aesthetics to blend in with the environment and future 5G platform harmonization to minimize disruption and maximize deployment long term value.

Real Estate strategy (and Real Estate itself) is a key asset in the rollout of Small Cell and DAS, providing physical space to mount current and future generations of equipment. Space can be outdoors in dense urban areas providing wireless coverage in buildings and walkways, large venues such as sports stadiums and airports, and recently trending towards in-building enterprise deployments. In each case, securing physical space is crucial for realistic deployment timelines, and that space must be used in a way that future proofs the deployment over periods of time measured in tens of years.Current technology deployments involve RF frequencies ranging from 700 MHz up to 2.5 GHz. Additional lower frequency spectrum will become available below 700 MHz, and should be considered in Real Estate decisions, as antennas that allow lower frequencies will be physically longer. 5G specifications will go in the opposite physical direction and require smaller antennas due to the higher frequencies.

While many aspects of 5G need to be worked out by standards groups, we can look forward and reasonably predict what we can expect to be key requirements to consider during deployment. The industry is clearly moving towards higher frequencies in order to support 5G. Frequencies under consideration start at 3.5 GHz and go well up into the millimeter wave frequency bands of 24 GHz, 28 GHz, and 38 GHz. These high frequency bands imply line of site characteristics, which place new demands on ideal physical site locations. First, the deployed sites need to have covers or enclosures that are transparent from an RF perspective, to those high mmWave frequencies. In addition, from a Real Estate perspective, it may become more important for sites to have line of site views of another site, allowing site to site transport over 5G frequencies.

Another key aspect of 5G deployment is line of site to the device, which will be inherent to the nature of 5G frequencies, 5G antennas need to be relatively close to devices. Small Cells deployed on streets, sidewalks, and other physical locations must also consider this critical aspect imposed by 5G. Sabre’s SmartStackTM fully integrated enclosures allow both traditional and 5G antennas inside a single structure.  Since these structures can be deployed on sidewalks or near street right of ways, the SmartStackTM becomes an ideal platform for future growth.

As wireless moves more and more towards connections with devices, those ideal physical locations will change. Also important to note from a Real Estate perspective is that Enterprise space can be covered both from inside the space, as well as outside the space, or both. A typical building may be best served with DAS and Small Cells located outside on sidewalks and other pedestrian areas, and then augmented by indoor high bandwidth services. Using today’s wireless network architectures, seamless transition from indoor to outdoor sites is easily realized. As always, getting close to the customer device will lead to provision of sufficient capacity and coverage for all types of use.

As capacity and coverage demands continue to increase, and capacity demands of people and the increasing demand of devices and IoT (Internet of Things) all continue to rapidly escalate, a hybrid approach to Indoor and Outdoor deployments creates an ideal solution. When Enterprise buildings are approached for Real Estate rights, consider procuring space in adjacent building owned right of ways as well as inside the building. Building owned right of ways typically cover areas outdoors where many people and devices gather at certain times of day such as commute periods and lunch times.

Enterprise designer best practice will then be able to balance and optimize coverage and capacity across bands, technologies as well as site types. Site types include macro, outdoor DAS and Small Cell, and indoor DAS and small cell. While the design options are numerous, today’s advanced design tools allow balancing these options against each other, providing a high performance design. After deployment, optimization tools allow real world adjustment to each of the coverage and capacity options.

Outdoor equipment options are many and include both DAS and RRU (Remote Radio Units), as well as future 5G equipment designs. Outdoor Real Estate rights definition need to consider future demands on space and equipment and a housing like the Sabre SmartStackTM will support that initiative outdoors. Equipment inside buildings creates additional options including transport over low power CAT cable based remote radio equipment, as well as Wi-Fi equipment integration. In buildings, limited runs of coax or heliax are standard design practice. While many of these technologies are easily deployed inside building, designers need to follow local and National codes regarding safety (i.e plenum cables). In addition, public safety bands and E911 performance must be considered in the design phase. While it is not clear what types of 5G equipment will be available for indoor Enterprise environments, allowing additional space for antennas, and additional fiber and CAT cabling are reasonable additions for the future.

Related 5G challenges exist at traditional DAS venues such as stadiums, airports, and other areas where large groups of customers gather together. Antennas must be inconspicuous which drives a requirement for antenna covers that keep the antenna, antenna mounts and cables hidden out of site. In addition, the network and antenna locations will need to be upgraded to support 5G. Sabre provides antenna cover products that provides for both legacy and 5G bands as shown in the drawing. As the requirements for new low frequency spectrum, current spectrum, and new 5G spectrum are driven to existing and new venues, both the Real Estate space required and the mandate to cover up multiple antennas becomes critical. Antenna locations need to be future proofed, multiple antennas will require retrofitting of antenna coverage solutions, and will also require more space.

The Sabre Antenna Cover Solution shown completely covers antennas with an RF transparent shield that blends in with the environment. Multiple antennas, cables, and mounting structures can be covered as shown in a typical stadium or large venue environment.

Common in all types of deployment and in particular for Real Estate consideration is the ability to accommodate current and future RF bands and to achieve the highest level of aesthetics. Both DAS and Small Cell equipment can be hidden inside appropriate housings so that mounts, antennas, and cables are not readily visible. Purpose designed and built such as those from Sabre help immensely in the aesthetic acceptance phase of site location, both indoors and outdoors. Clearly demand for coverage quality and capacity continue to escalate, those demands must be met along with visual acceptance. Successful Real Estate requirements will be driven to provide sufficient space for new technologies, new bands including 5G, maintain value of the space, and provide a high level of aesthetic acceptance. As wireless continues its inexorable march into the future, the tools for design and deployment will continue adapt and evolve to keep pace.

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