Bringing a comprehensive DAS solution to university and college campuses can be a long and confusing process, full of difficult decisions that can lead to costly mistakes. Those vital decisions include choosing a funding model, integration partners, and technology. Deciphering carrier involvement and making a business case for deploying wireless on campus is also key. Over the past few years, the changing wireless landscape has impacted how DAS needs to function within a campus setting.
In a recent panel discussion, five professionals in the industry teamed up to talk about the key issues around DAS within a campus environment:
- David Moeller, National Market Manager, Graybar
- Eric Toenjes, DAS Business Development Manager, Graybar
- Bryce Bregan, VP of Sales, Connectivity Wireless
- Brian Domingo, Business Development Manager, CommScope
- David Fox, Director of Real Estate Development, American Tower
If you’d like to view the entire panel discussion, you can find it on ACUTA’s website here. First, let’s take a look at what’s driving the wireless market in a campus setting.
The Evolution of Wireless
The Proliferation of Wireless Devices
Forty years ago, Motorola made the first mobile call on the first-ever cellular phone: the DynaTAC. Since then, the mobile phone has transformed from a geeky niche gadget into the most universal device in existence. Just a few years ago, the use of cell phones and other wireless devices was viewed as a convenience. The college and university students of “yesteryear” relied on landlines to communicate—smartphones and tablets didn’t even exist yet. The few who owned a cell phone expected indoor coverage to be spotty. Individual carriers might add a cell site on campus, or deploy spot-coverage solutions in some buildings. Otherwise, wireless on campus meant Wi-Fi.
Moving The Conversation Indoors
We know that over 70 percent of cellular calls now initiate and terminate inside buildings. It goes without saying, times have changed since the days of the Motorola DynaTAC. Wireless, our primary means of communication, is now ubiquitous. Students and staff at colleges and universities across the nation expect wireless coverage, and they need a network to back them up. Students want the latest technology, and may even require it. Access to wireless technology could even influence which school they attend.
From a teacher’s laptop to a student’s smartphone or iPad, on campus, we now have more wireless devices than we do people. In an academic context, wireless is fundamental to the learning process. Due to the vast and increasing appetite for data, reliable service is now about network capacity versus coverage, and carriers are focused on offloading capacity from overtasked outdoor cell sites. They want to take indoor users and segment them off from the rest of the network. Capacity enhancement is the primary investment that carriers are making on campus, not coverage.
The Multi-Carrier DAS Landscape
Universities can’t control which cell carrier a student brings to campus. From Sprint to AT&T, students expect wireless from all carriers to work. A neutral third party is essential to ensure that competing carriers work well together, freeing up the university IT director to manage the project from a high level. Funding for the system either comes from the university, a neutral host/third-party operator who brings investment from multiple carriers, or a combination of the two.
Mass Notification Systems & Public Safety
All you need to do is watch the six o’clock news to understand the security threats that students and staff have faced in far too many schools. In response to the need for effective emergency communications, all colleges and universities have implemented mass notification systems to alert students and staff of impending threats. During an emergency, communications via text message could save the lives of innocent bystanders—but only if there is cell phone coverage for all carriers in all buildings.
Coverage also matters for first responders. As I mentioned in my previous blog post, Public Safety & First Responders: DAS in Action, first responders need reliable radio and cell phone coverage indoors to facilitate their response, which keeps staff and students safe. To protect their students and staff, and to allow first responders to act quickly, universities must find a way to provide coverage for all services.
To sum it all up, the wireless environment within colleges and universities has evolved over the years. Campuses now require more capable, efficient, and intelligent DAS systems that respond to growing wireless needs and public safety concerns.
Over to You
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About The Author
Eric Toenjes, Business Development Manager, DAS
Before Graybar, Eric spent over 11 years working within sales and account management for companies like Sprint and Nextel Communications, spearheading an 11-state region for DAS sales to enterprise and major cellular carrier accounts. Eric understands that the ubiquitous in-building wireless network is a requirement of every commercial building and campus. As DAS Business Development Manager at Graybar, Eric works diligently to foster strategic partnerships and enable delivery of outstanding in-building wireless networks for Graybar’s customers.
Sources & Credits
ACUTA Connecting Campus IT Professionals with Ideas & Solutions