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Every day, it is becoming more common for enterprise IT departments—including those at colleges and universities—to get requests or instructions to improve the wireless coverage in and around their facilities.
The first challenge that such an IT department will face is the need to understand a new set of equipment and technologies, including how they will coexist with current infrastructure.
Once the technical aspects are well understood, plus the context aspects of integrators and wireless operators likely being involved, the IT team will face a significant challenge—the funding.
The IT department will be fortunate if its enterprise already has budget allocated for a distributed antenna system (DAS), though this is not often the case. In most cases, if there is a budget, it is because it was requested during the prior fiscal year with sufficient business reasons to make it available. However, when no budget is available and many entities inside the enterprise are requesting the IT department to find a solution, what are the funding options?
There are basically three common funding options for deploying an enterprise DAS: fund it internally, use a neutral host model (a third party company that owns, installs and operates the DAS), or get a wireless operator to pay for it. It is not uncommon to utilize a mix of these alternatives, though each enterprise case needs to be analyzed independently. Any company, be it a neutral host or an operator interested in funding a DAS, will need to have sufficient justification for the investment. They will run a return on investment (ROI) analysis to make sure their economical models will translate into a positive source of revenue over a certain period of time.
The IT department might have different funding options and sometimes different economic expectations than a neutral host or operator. I believe it is extremely important, before engaging in funding discussions, that the IT department has a clear understanding of their stakeholders and the implications that selecting a certain funding model will have in the long term. Most likely, those stakeholders are urging the IT department to find an immediate solution, perhaps encouraging the IT department to speed through a thorough funding options analysis. But I urge IT professionals to do your due diligence at this stage. Different sets of drivers will be more suited to certain funding models than others. You may find your funding, but you should ensure that the funding option you choose is well aligned with your overall strategy and expectations. And if you don’t yet have an overall DAS/wireless strategy, you might want to think about crafting that as well.
For more information about DAS funding options, replay this recent webinar put together by HetNet Forum and ACUTA, in which I participated. You can also download the presentation slides. If you are looking for some basic background information about DAS, check out chapter 13 of our Understanding the RF Path ebook. If you have any questions, leave me a comment.