Signal boosters vs. Distributed Antenna Systems: The fiscally responsible choice
In today’s tech-savvy world, consistent connectivity is a must — and so is financial responsibility. Distributed antenna systems (DAS) can help boost cellular connectivity in a commercial setting, and choosing passive DAS (another name for cell signal booster systems) can save time and money while providing enhanced accessibility for all users.
In today’s world, we rely on consistent connectivity wherever we go. Whether at home, in the office, or while at school or a shopping center, poor or nonexistent cellular service can be a real disruption to our communication and productivity.
Weak cell signals can happen to anyone in just about any location. Buildings, geographic features, trees, and even certain types of weather can block cellular signals by preventing a cell tower’s radiofrequency (RF) waves from reaching your devices.
Likewise, distance from cellular towers (especially in rural areas) can have a negative effect on reception. As a result, you might experience dropped calls, reduced call quality, and other symptoms of poor connectivity.
Depending on the solution you need, improving a poor signal can be a costly investment. Business owners need to be aware of their upfront spending and any debt they incur, especially when purchasing or leasing a new building.
However, many building owners decide that strong cellular connectivity is something they can’t do business without. They key is finding a financially responsible option that won’t completely break the bank or max out the company credit card.
Fortunately, there are options for improving cellular connectivity in just about any commercial or luxury home setting. Two common solutions are active distributed antenna systems (DAS) and cell signal boosters, also called passive distributed antenna systems (passive DAS).
Active DAS is a common choice for very large buildings or environments that need enhanced cell signal. These systems use antennas and fiber optic cable to capture a cell signal from a remote source and broadcast it over a wide area, such as a stadium, subway station or other large area with square footage reaching into the millions. Active DAS systems typically create a single-carrier signal — one that boosts signal only for a specific carrier, like Verizon or AT&T.
While these are good options for covering very large areas, active DAS are known for their high costs and difficult retro-fitting due to the intensive fiber optic installation requirements. Typically, these systems cost $2-$4 per square foot and may take as long as 18 months to completely install.
Cell signal booster systems, or passive DAS, work to enhance poor reception in a similar way as active DAS without the intensive and expensive installation. Signal boosters work by using rooftop donor antennas to capture existing cell signals from nearby cell towers, amplifying the weak signal, and then rebroadcasting the boosted signal throughout the indoor.
Typically the strength of the cell signal is boosted up to 32 times. Furthermore, the resulting indoor signal is carrier-agnostic, providing a significant improvement in cellular reception quality for cellular devices across all carriers.
Passive DAS uses a series of antennas and coaxial cable, making installation simple and cost-effective — typically $0.50 per square foot. Most installation projects can be completed within a few weeks of a site signal survey, depending on the scope of the install. Passive DAS is a reliable choice even for large commercial buildings or big campuses extending over hundreds of thousands of square feet.
The benefit of choosing passive DAS
When researching solutions for your own organization, it’s important to consider your needs, timeline, and budget. While an active DAS offer a reliable choice for very large coverage areas like stadiums or expansive transportation systems, its generally seen as more expensive and time-consuming to install. Often, the installation needs to be coordinated and pre-approved by a cellular carrier, and the resulting coverage extends only to devices using that carrier.
On the flip side, passive DAS has multiple benefits:
- Requires no fiber optic cable — it uses coaxial cable and antennas, which are must simpler to install and adjust in a variety of commercial settings.
- Is FCC-approved to bring enhanced signal to all users on all frequencies, without favoring one specific carrier over another.
- Takes far less time to install than active DAS — usually a matter of several weeks or months instead of over a year.
- Most importantly, passive DAS is the most financially responsible method of improving cellular connectivity. With an average of $0.50 per square foot, it’s a quarter of the cost of a comparable active DAS.
Fiscally speaking, the responsible choice for enhancing cell signal quality is passive DAS. Unless you have a coverage area the size of a football stadium (and an equally large budget), a passive DAS offers reliable coverage and significant cost savings for a wide range of commercial installations.
When choosing a cellular signal boosting system, consider your coverage area, timeline, and budget to determine the best choice for your commercial setting.
To learn more about passive DAS, read our Ultimate Guide to DAS eBook.