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Property managers and business owners often struggle with cell phone reception that’s less than ideal. This can be due to a number of factors. For businesses, one of the primary reasons cell phone signals may be weak inside a commercial property is because of the materials the building is made of.

Concrete, steel, aluminum and other metals may completely block a cell phone signal while other building materials that don’t conduct electricity (such as wood, drywall and insulation) may severely impede a signal. If a signal outside a building is weak to begin with, then the building materials that were used to construct your office or other business aren’t doing the signal strength any favors.

So, short of turning your property into an open-air garden, what else can you do to improve the cell phone reception for your customers and employees? There are essentially two solutions to this kind of problem: cell phone boosters and distributed antenna systems.

Let’s examine both choices below and figure out if one option might make more sense for your business.

commercial office building

What Is a Distributed Antenna System?

A distributed antenna system, or DAS as it’s often called in the industry, involves the integration of an extensive system of linked antennas into a large workplace, hotel or hospital — essentially any type of building with a very large square-footage footprint.

This DAS allows for full-strength reception in certain spots where cell phone signal is traditionally quite weak, such as in underground subway platforms, a certain floor or room of a hotel, or in lower levels in a hospital.
This network of antennas is connected to a common source and is distributed throughout an entire building to improve the cellular signal throughout it.

In a DAS, antennas are spaced carefully apart so that each antenna offers full coverage without overlapping with the one next to it. This helps reduce the number of antennas needed to cover an entire building because each antenna has its own designated area to provide increased signal strength.
Having a network of antennas instead of a larger, single antenna is generally more power efficient.

Some common applications of DAS for boosting cell phone signal include:

  • Hotels
  • Subways
  • Airports
  • Hospitals
  • Large businesses
  • Roadway tunnels

In addition to boosting cell phone signals, DAS can also be used for police, fire and emergency services. It’s important to note that DAS solutions can typically be categorized into two main types: active DAS and passive DAS.

Active DAS

An active DAS solution works by creating a cellular signal and distributing it throughout the building. Because it creates a signal, active DAS requires heavy infrastructure and a huge capital investment. Active DAS is best suited to spaces like international airports, stadiums, and arenas that span 250,000 sq. ft.

Passive DAS

A passive DAS system is also referred to as a cell phone booster system. It doesn’t create a signal, but rather amplifies an existing signal and distributes it throughout the building or area. Because it doesn’t have to create a signal, passive DAS systems are easier to deploy and less expensive to integrate. More importantly, they work to support multiple carriers. This type of cellular booster solution is best suited to spaces that can pull in an existing signal.

commerical construction site

What Is a Cell Phone Booster?

A cell phone booster, or cell signal booster, is a freestanding device that does exactly what the name says it does — it boosts existing weak cell phone signals to a usable strength level for use by cell phones, smartphones, tablets and other devices that connect to cellular networks. Cell phone boosters use an amplifier along with an exterior antenna and series of indoor antennas to strengthen an existing cellular signal.

  • By doing this, phone boosters help to:
  • Reduce instances of dropped calls
  • Improve voice quality for fewer “can you hear me now?” questions

Increase data speeds — especially helpful for workers distributing and locating items on a factory floor or other similar tasks

As mentioned before, a cell phone booster system is also referred to as passive DAS. Cell phone booster systems are a popular option for businesses because they’re easy to install and provide a quick, viable solution to weak signal problems inside a building. High-power commercial boosting systems are capable of serving large office buildings and similarly sized commercial properties.

Deciding Between a Cell Phone Booster System and Active DAS

Since a cell phone booster system and active DAS perform essentially the same function, it can be tricky to know which one might be a better choice for your business. Here’s the rundown of the most prominent attributes of each of these two cell phone signal boosting solutions.

Cell Phone Booster Systems: Easy to Install and Carrier-Agnostic

If you’re looking for a cell phone signal boosting solution that’s easy to install and operate, a cell phone booster system is a logical choice. A cell phone booster system lets you provide a stronger cell phone signal for employees and customers in business locations where building materials, environmental interference (such as natural landforms) or distance from the nearest cell phone tower have all factored into a weakened voice and data signal.

It’s important to keep in mind that, although residential cell phone boosters are easy enough for the average homeowner to install, commercial-grade cell phone boosters do require expert installation. But the process is relatively simple for a skilled technician, and it doesn’t require a lot of wiring, cable or modifications to your business.

Passive DAS solutions are also carrier-agnostic, meaning they work with any major cell phone provider, including Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and other major carriers. Cell phone boosters are also able to provide improved signal to anyone who enters your commercial property, whether they’re employees, customers, contractors or delivery drivers.

working woman talking on cell phone

Active DAS: Permanent, More Complicated to Install and Single-Carrier Compatible

Active DAS is a dedicated solution that permanently ties into the electronic infrastructure of a business. Cable or fiber-optic lines are run to link antennas needed on different floor levels and areas of the office, and permanent connections are made with both utilities and phone service providers.

Since a permanent connection has to be made with the service provider, this usually means that a DAS can only be used with a signal cell phone carrier — or at the very least, service may exclude smaller cell phone companies that have fewer towers.

Distributed antenna systems are a great choice for new commercial construction, but upgrading existing systems or retrofitting them into an existing building may be an expensive, complicated and time-consuming process.

Ease of Use

Cell phone boosters are essentially plug-and-play solutions for businesses and can be easily upgraded and maintained. Many boosters are also designed to automatically read and anticipate fluctuations in incoming cell phone signals. In other words, these boosters can automatically compensate when a signal is very strong or very weak. On the whole, cell phone boosters are generally easier to install, use, maintain and upgrade.

Active DAS are hardwired, dedicated solutions, so they require expert maintenance and technical support to troubleshoot problems, such as power or carrier signal outages or signal distribution throughout a commercial space.
Recall also that active DAS installation is permanent. This is an important consideration for companies that may plan to relocate in the future or modify their workplaces. Both of those scenarios would involve hiring technicians to re-run or remove many miles of wiring and hardware necessary for proper operation of the system.

Cost

As with all business decisions, cost is a significant consideration. And when it comes to cell phone boosters and dedicated antenna systems, there is an enormous difference in price.

In most cases, a freestanding cell phone booster system can be purchased, installed and operated for less than 10% of the cost of a major active DAS installation project. This is a huge difference in overhead, especially if your business is on the smaller side and just looking to improve cell phone signal within your business for employees, customers and visitors.

If you need a simple, effective solution to boost incoming and outgoing cell phone signals for improved voice quality and faster data speeds, a commercial-grade cell phone booster system may be just what your business needs.

If you’d like to find out more about what WilsonPro offers for enhancing the cell phone signal at your workplace or commercial building, reach out to us by phone at 888-503-5329 to find out how we can help.

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