Microwave Journal

Distributed Antenna Systems Help In-building Wireless Market

May 27, 2004

Distributed antenna systems help make in-building wireless market a reality, says ABI Research. Prior to the development of in-building wireless (IBW) networks, in order to access the cellular network from inside a building, one had to hope that the local cellular carrier’s network could penetrate the exterior and interior walls of the building from the outside. More often than not, this simply meant one went outside to make or receive a call.

In the late 1990s, companies popped up offering IBW solutions to building owners and carriers. In the simplest of models, these companies would negotiate an exclusive arrangement with a building owner to develop the IBW network. This solution provider would then sell access to the network, usually at rather costly prices, to the highest paying cellular carrier. This model worked in some cases, but it had two inherent problems: (1) the carriers sometimes refused to pay the IBW provider’s fees and instead focused spending on their own networks; and (2) the technology for the initial IBW solution was often a clunky and unreliable passive network of coaxial cable and repeaters.

Enter distributed antenna systems (DAS). DAS use fiber cable within the building to actively distribute signals to a network of small powered antennas. The system still requires a base station in the building but allows for that signal to be sent throughout the building more efficiently and more reliably by transmitting the signals from multiple locations within the building. A market for IBW solutions based on DAS has been steadily growing and ABI Research found in a recent analysis that the market stands to top $1 B annually by 2010.

Still, however, DAS technology is not the best solution for all buildings. In cases where only one tenant is seeking to extend the cellular network into a building, a repeater system, like that offered by Spotwave Wireless, may be the most effective. The small building segment of the IBW market will continue to represent a sizable niche for companies whose solutions rely on a repeater-based network. For more information on this study, please visit: http://www.abiresearch.com/reports/IBW.html.