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A few decades ago, the idea that every employee in an enterprise would have their own laptop or desktop – not to mention a mobile phone and/or tablet – requiring unfailing access to Internet connectivity on every single device would have seemed like futuristic overkill.
Now, working without constant connectivity to email, instant messaging tools, search engines, applications and software programs on multiple devices sounds unfathomable, especially for employees of a certain generation. In addition, as rising trends become more prevalent in the enterprise, it won’t be an option for any space within a workplace to have low or no connectivity.
In light of trends like Bring-Your-Own-Device policies and Internet of Things adoption, and with average U.S. adult mobile internet usage quadrupling over the past five years (with much of that usage at work), enterprises need to think seriously about building an in-building wireless network that works both now and in the future.
The 8 Questions to Ask of a DAS System
A distributed antenna system (DAS) can solve for a business’ current needs, but also position it to take advantage of the technologies of tomorrow. To ensure selection of a future-ready system, enterprises need to ask the following:
- How are the people in the building or offices communicating, and which applications and technologies are needed to support those preferences?
- What is the expectation regarding connectivity for the next generation of employees, and what are the requirements to meet those expectations?
- Are there emerging technologies within the company, like the Internet of Things, machine-to- machine (M2M) communications, and 5G cellular, that need stable and reliable cellular connectivity?
- Is it full spectrum, so it can access all of the most utilized cellular and public safety signals as well as all of the frequencies available between 150 MHz and 2700 MHz?
- Is it fully fiber based, instead of coaxial cable based or a hybrid of coaxial cable and fiber, to keep costs lower and installation time to a minimum?
- How much hardware needs to be installed? Is it complicated? Are there multiple components to install that will add to installation time and costs?
- Is it multi-carrier – does it give access to the entire employee base, no matter what carrier they use?
- Does the system support adding carriers and frequency bands without the need for additional hardware or expensive upgrades?
While asking these questions will help guide an enterprise’s search for the right in-building DAS system, another challenge to consider is capital outlay.
To solve that problem, enterprise can also consider a new business model: Cellular-as-a-Service (CaaS).
Another Business Model for In-Building Connectivity
It’s long been an accepted business model for many mid-sized enterprises (those occupying about 200,000 to 700,000 square feet in a building) to outsource technologies – think of cloud storage, and software as a service (SaaS) apps from companies like Salesforce and Microsoft. Most mid-sized enterprises pay licensing fees for the rights to use SaaS – and CaaS extends the same business model to the in-building wireless space.
CaaS is a way to manage the costs of a DAS system so that an organization who wants to install an in-building DAS can make it an operational expense. In this model, they don’t need to lay out capital for installation and can only pay for what they need, without worrying about maintenance costs as those are built in to the monthly fee.
The largest enterprises may prefer to own their own infrastructure – and have the capital to build it and hire the IT staff needed to manage wireless in-house. For mid-sized companies, however, either those expenses aren’t options, or they don’t want to get that involved with a wireless system – they just want a simple mobile solution that works.
With a CaaS option, improved connectivity becomes an operational expense – just like paying utility bills every month – removing the concerns about high upfront costs, as well as recurring downstream costs due to system changes and additions.
In the CaaS model, the solution is offered on a monthly, per-square-foot basis and includes deployment and on-going system monitoring and maintenance. Any new frequency or operator additions on the system or additional coverage areas would not involve any capital outlays by the enterprise, as they would be covered as part of the service.
This lets the enterprise depend on a reliable third party to manage the in-building wireless. The system is supported by industry-accepted service-level agreements as part of the ongoing monitoring of the solution, ensuring the enterprise gets an expected level of service every day, much like paying a utility bill creates the expectation that the lights always turn on.
CaaS creates an alternative business model that will allow enterprises to check every box on their in-building DAS wireless system wish list: getting a best-in-class system by paying for it with an operational expenditure (OpEx) model, not a capital expenditure (CapEx) model.
Preparing for the Future
According to ABI research, more than 80 percent of all mobile traffic originates or terminates indoors – making in-building DAS systems a “must-have for handling mobile and Wi-Fi traffic.”
Employees now expect the same mobile experience both indoors and outdoors, and from anywhere within their workplace. It’s critical for an enterprise to find a platform that is fully future ready and scalable to meet the connectivity needs of today as well as those of tomorrow.
With innovative new business models such as CaaS, even smaller and mid-size enterprises have access to the same opportunities afforded by reliable in-building wireless, helping them compete on the same level as enterprises at the top of the pyramid.
Using a CaaS model to invest in a best-in-class DAS system can bring a broader range of solutions to enterprises, allowing them to make decisions today that get them ready for the future, and giving leadership confidence that the choice they make today will still be the right choice down the road.
Scott Willis is president and CEO of Zinwave, a provider of indoor cellular and wireless solutions for commercial buildings.