A Hero Knows About DAS

Have you been in an office where all the employees are lining the exterior windows trying to get a good signal on their cell phones? If that’s the case, maybe you can be the DAS hero.

Before joining CommScope, I used to sit in my office at my previous company and gaze out the window at the beautiful desert view of South Mountain in Phoenix, Ariz. One day, while gazing at this view, I got a call. It was humbling and somewhat gratifying to know that even though I had climbed the corporate ladder to a director level, I was still the company’s go-to-guy for anything cable related.

The call came from someone in provisioning informing me that a wireless service provider needed to reach me about extending a circuit from our facility entrance on the first floor up to our executive level on the 10th floor. The provider wanted to know if we had any riser cable available or if they needed to run their own. I quickly informed the person that we had plenty of fiber, multi-pair and four-pair riser cable available. I patted myself on the back for designing the building with flexibility and room for growth. Curious about what was happening within our infrastructure, I asked what equipment or technology was needed to extend up to the 10th floor. It turned out that the executives on the top floor were frustrated with the bad cell service and it could be fixed by extending coverage with the use of antennas within our building.

This was my first introduction to distributed antenna systems (DAS). I had never heard of DAS, or understood what the acronym meant. I didn't even know you could extend cell service like that. I hadn't heard about it from my preferred cabling contractor, any of my trade magazines, or at the last BICSI show. And most importantly, this technology wasn't brought to my attention by my cabling manufacturer account executive.

As it turns out, they only installed the DAS solution on the executive floor. The rest of us, myself included, had to get up and walk to a nearby window when we wanted to use the cell phone. When in the office, I often had to ask callers to reach me back on my desk phone. Had I known there was a solution to this problem, I—instead of the wireless operator—could have been the hero on the 10th floor. It would have been nice to have information on DAS and in-building wireless just a few months earlier so I could have added it to our request for proposal on the 10-story building before we finished construction.

It turns out that my previous experience—or should I say, inexperience—with DAS is similar to some of the findings from the seventh edition of the CommScope Global Enterprise Survey, released in late March. The survey of more than 1,100 IT professionals from 63 nations found that this so-called enterprise mobility is one of the top challenges facing company networks around the world.

In fact, the survey found a noticeable gap between usage of mobile devices within enterprise facilities and the capability of those buildings to enable wireless traffic. According to the survey, an average of 43 percent of all phone calls originating within an enterprise facility involves a mobile phone, yet only 30 percent of these businesses say their carrier-provided in-building signal coverage and capacity are sufficient to handle the mobile traffic. This had more than three-quarters of respondents admitting that employees had to roam around the office, or even go outside, to get an adequate signal for a call.

Since starting my new role with CommScope, I am sure to apply this personal lesson—and talk about our survey findings—when speaking to those in a similar situation I was in. Maybe my story will be useful to you or someone you know who works in an office where all the employees are lining the exterior windows trying to get a good signal on their cell phones. If that’s the case, maybe you can be the DAS hero.