Integrator’s Corner: Dan Morin, UberSignal - Lake Forest, California, Pittsburgh, and New York City
Dan Morin is the co-owner of UberSignal, which has locations in Lake Forest, California, Pittsburgh, and New York City. He’s been in the cellular signal boosting industry for more than six years. UberSignal prides itself on being a superior integration partner and problem solver for individuals and businesses in need of better and more robust cellular connectivity. UberSignal has worked on office buildings, hotels, educational institutions, car dealerships, large residences, and many other types of businesses.
We recently spoke to Dan about the improvements made possible through cellular amplification, the changes he’s seen in cellular and amplifier technology, and how his company is poised to handle the challenges integrators encounter while out in the field.
WilsonPro: What attracted you to this line of work?
Morin: My co-founder Jeff and I were looking at various business opportunities and signal boosters caught our attention as an interesting product segment. This is more than a product, it’s an opportunity to help people and improve their quality of life through better connectivity. We work hard to take a complex product and make it easier for people to understand, as well as educate people that there are solutions for bad cell phone signal that actually work.
WilsonPro: What is your business model?
Morin: We’re not a traditional integrator that is installing computer networks every day and dabbles in signal boosters on the side. We specialize entirely in signal boosters. So we have the ecommerce side where we are selling these, and then a professional side where we are helping businesses and installing solutions.
WilsonPro: What is the secret to great customer service?
Morin: In addition to local contract installers, we guarantee our customers a great experience by having one of our own experts on site at every installation. We would rather do that than hand them off to a local integrator who may not be as trained or experienced as our staff. There is a science to this, but there is also an art. You can’t entrust your customers to someone who may have never done this, or has only done it on a much smaller scale, or in a different type of space. Customers get the best experience when they deal with one person throughout the process.
WilsonPro: Do you have an integration specialty?
Morin: We do a little bit of everything. We’ve had some good experiences in our work with schools and universities. A lot of schools have a need for better communication for emergencies now, and we have had happy customers there. We’ve done installations in office buildings, hotels and very large homes. We have also done a number of car dealerships — and those can get up to 100,000 square feet. We also have many installations where a previous system has been improperly installed and we were able to provide them with a new solution to solve their cellular problems.
WilsonPro: Tell us a bit about the work you’ve done repairing systems that have failed and how you’ve made that part of your business?
Morin: Fixing and replacing an existing system is where the art part I mentioned comes into play. You can’t just install a system without experience or doing the right prep work ahead of time. We do a full system design and walk customers through the process to ensure the system we sell is going to work. We also help other integrators with this process so they can leverage our years of experience for the benefit of their customers. Often times we are cleaning up an existing passive DAS or an old system. Then we also have the situation where people have an active DAS system that’s only for a certain carrier or network and now they are looking for other options.
WilsonPro: What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in integration?
Morin: It used to be that a lot of companies were providing company-owned cell phones and they only needed a single-carrier network to be reliable. With everyone bringing their own devices on different carriers to work, the single-carrier, active DAS model is far less beneficial — and that’s why we’ve seen a move to carrier-agnostic solutions.
WilsonPro: What technologies or products have made the biggest impact on improving cell signal for your customers?
Morin: The deployment of 4G/LTE over the last eight years has been very interesting and it’s changed the way we recommend boosters. It’s definitely complicated things, but it’s improved access to fast data and cellular call quality as well. We often have people tell us that they have Wi-Fi, so they don’t need data — but what they don’t understand is that it’s all data. When Verizon shuts down its 2G and 3G networks at the end of 2019, there will be a lot of organizations that need to upgrade their older DAS and booster systems. You can also look at the future and 5G. That’s been a challenge because carriers have started advertising it, but what is being deployed now is not true 5G. People want the equipment we deploy today to support 5G and the industry will have to keep up with the changing technology.
WilsonPro: What issues or obstacles commonly catch customers off guard and how do you deal with those?
Morin: We have people that are skeptical and think it’s too good to be true, or if they’ve gotten an active DAS quote and we come in at a quarter of the cost, they are skeptical. We ensure a minimum indoor signal strength throughout the area we’re boosting as part of our installation guarantee. We also offer yearly maintenance plans and guarantee onsite visits or monitoring to ensure their system continues to operate at peak performance.
Another challenge is getting customers to understand that raw signal strength does not represent signal quality, and that quality is a carrier issue. So in tandem with the WilsonPro signal meter, which is a great tool, we’ve also invested in some hardware and software that allows us to take readings of signal strength and quality. This helps us better design the system, but also sets customer expectations of how well the system will perform and what to expect for better readings on their phones. It really comes down to understanding customer concerns and answering the customer’s questions.
WilsonPro: What are some common technical issues that arise during the integration process and how do you address those issues?
Morin: The biggest issues are the unknown obstacles we encounter once we get started. A site survey shows a lot, but not everything. We often encounter some things that weren’t on the floor plan.
We address these issues by being as proactive as possible, and finding efficiencies wherever we can. For example, if the building is under construction, we look to leverage the current company tasked with running cable to also run ours, as they know the best routes and obstacles in advance. We have a third-party cabling guideline document we ask people to follow, which has eliminated issues with having too little cable in certain areas. This saves the customer money and frees up our team to focus on the more specialized aspects of installations.
WilsonPro: Tell us about a challenging integration project. How were you able to resolve the situation?
Morin: We did an installation at a car dealership where we came in to replace an existing single-amplifier solution that had never worked properly. We installed the WilsonPro 4000, but when we turned it on the performance was only marginally better due to a weak initial donor signal. We used a different cable pathway and a more powerful door antenna to target an alternate cell tower and eventually improved the signal to the point where we were seeing three to four bars on most devices inside the dealership. That was a challenging installation that turned out really well.
WilsonPro: What WilsonPro product do you recommend most frequently?
Morin: We have had great success with the Pro 4000. It gives you the extended dynamic range (XDR) technology that helps with strong outside signal while still being very cost effective compared to deploying four separate boosters. You have to have strong outdoor signal and you need to be able to locate the amplifier centrally within the building to avoid long cable runs to get the most out of it, so we’re not always able to use that product, but when we can, we do. It enables us to not over design while still providing an effective solution for the customer.
We’re also excited about the new Pro 1000C cloud-enabled technology WilsonPro amplifier that was just released — especially because you don’t have to attach it to a corporate network. We will definitely be recommending it going forward.
WilsonPro: Is there anything you wish that your prospective customers knew that would make integration of cell signal boosters easier?
Morin: It’s hard to gather the right information because we aren’t always talking to the building engineer. The challenge is getting as much — and as accurate — information as possible from the customer. That directly impacts the accuracy of the design and how good the outcome will be. We have a questionnaire for gathering this initial information, but people don’t always fill it out completely so we have to decide whether or not to go back to the customer and request additional data or work. We try not to burden customers too much while still getting the information we need, and then balance that with the information we can find ourselves.
Additionally, some organizations have existing DAS installs and people often don’t understand the difference between an active antenna system and passive DAS, so a lot of explanation on and expectation setting is required on our end before we can move forward with the design and installation.