Mandates might force in-building cellular projects

* City ordinances require broadcast of public-safety wireless signals indoors

Even if you opt for Wi-Fi indoors and cellular outdoors for user communications - perhaps using some flavor of fixed-mobile convergence product or service - there still might be a distributed antenna system in your future. Why? Because some city governments are starting to require that buildings figure out a way to boost public-safety radio signals indoors to protect and help first responders. And that probably means installing equipment that re-broadcasts signals in a variety of spectra.

Even if you opt for Wi-Fi indoors and cellular outdoors for user communications - perhaps using some flavor of fixed-mobile convergence product or service - there still might be a distributed antenna system (DAS) in your future. Why? Because some city governments are starting to require that buildings figure out a way to boost public-safety radio signals indoors to protect and help first responders. And that probably means installing equipment that re-broadcasts signals in a variety of spectra.

I have in front of me, for example, ordinances from the City of Burbank and the City of Irvine in California requiring buildings to have radio amplification systems in the 400MHz range and 800MHz range, respectively, with associated minimum requirements for coverage, signal strength and reliability. If and when part of the D Block of the newly available 700MHz spectrum is purchased and applied to a nationwide public safety network, those signals will likely need to be supported, too.

In some cities, these requirements are for new buildings only. However, some mandates are retroactive, according to Aaron Nelson, co-founder of RepeatedSignal, a DAS supplier in Santa Barbara, Calif. He cites ordinances in Orange County, Las Vegas, New York and Chicago (starting in 2012) as other examples of local governments cracking down to ensure that police, firefighters and others have a way to communicate from inside buildings.

Depending on your geography and whether or not your company owns its building(s), these requirements may or may not impact you directly. Generally, the entity that owns and maintains the building is responsible for complying with the signal repeater ordinance. But if your company is that entity, you’re going to require an in-building amplifier and probably one that supports multiple signals types, given that public safety networks currently support varied spectra locally but will be moving to a common nationwide radio network in the future. Among the makers of DASs that support signal feeds from multiple sources are Andrew, ADC/LGC Wireless, InnerWireless and MobileAccess.

Whether it becomes your responsibility or your building owner’s to install a DAS, you might want to take the opportunity to capitalize on the system if it’s required to be there anyway. If you are in a multitenant building, you might explore with the building owner, for example, the possibility of supporting other signals you might need – say, from the cellular providers – with the various tenants chipping in something each month on the rent to help fund the system. Some folks are even interested in piggybacking their Wi-Fi signals onto the system, collocating their 802.11 access points in the telecom closet so that upgrades and changes don’t require climbing back into the ceiling. Again, these are possible considerations if the system is going to be there anyway.

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