T-Mobile’s Allan Tantillo raised eyebrows and rankled some industry insiders last year when he pronounced DAS was dead.
The senior director, national site development, gave more details of the carrier’s vision of the future of DAS during his keynote last week’s Network Infrastructure Forum at IWCE 2016. In sum, the economic model of DAS must evolve to fit into the push into enterprises and smaller entertainment venues, according to Tantillo.
“We are looking to change and revolutionize the economic model of DAS,” Tantillo said. “Our venue and special events team is working actively to change the model in new venues and new types of arenas.”
T-Mobile calls its new initiative “Bring Your Own RF,” and it leans heavily on the enterprise to supply the in-building infrastructure, while the carrier merely brings the RF source. “We have had tremendous success getting some very large developers across the country to understand they need to provide the infrastructure for use, so we can just bring our RF base stations to connect to their systems. It changes the economic model,” Tantillo said.
In some places, like casinos, the DAS model will evolve more slowly and will be remain dominated by the current business model, according to Tantillo. But T-Mobile’s new economic model is starting to gain footing in other enterprises, he asserted.
“This economic model frees us up to grow more rapidly, because it helps alleviate the capital burden, so that millions and millions of dollars can be shifted to landlords to help bear the burden of the infrastructure that they need, just like they pay for plumbing and electricity and Ethernet in their offices,” he said.
One member of the audience, Farzin Yazdani, CEO, Fast DAS, an RF Engineering and integration company, was impressed with Tantillo’s presentation and the carrier’s approach to enterprises.
“T-Mobile has a lot of the middle-prise [mid-sized enterprise] figured out,” Yazdani said. “They understand that the venues will drive the funding of the infrastructure, but they still need to provide them with a signal source.”
However, Yazdani disagreed with Tantillo on the relative health of DAS, saying he didn’t see it dying anytime soon.
“There is no more elegant way to penetrate signals into a building than with a neutral host system that combines everything and shoots it out to one antenna,” he said.
Other carriers have not figured out how to penetrate the mid-sized enterprises without the expense, which has slowed down the DAS market, according to Yazdani. Even with enterprise funding, Yazdani still sees a play for third party involvement.
“In a hybrid-funding model, the enterprise provides the lion’s share of the funding, and if there is an RoI model for a collocation of services or a capex/opex split with the carriers, we will provide the gap funding to build a compliant DAS,” he said. “If the carrier gives us a small cell and pays for the backhaul, we can build a neutral-host DAS and put it into the point of interface. The other carriers will follow suit [and collocate], if T-Mobile builds out a certain venue or office building.”
Speaking of small cells, Tantillo admitted that his company is behind the other carriers in small cell deployment in “some regards,” but he questioned whether the competition was actually deploying small cells, or just smaller macros.
“While we are not in the open with our strategy, we are actively working on our small cell strategy,” Tantillo said. “We are working with lots of different companies that are helping us. When you see us finally get through our trials and put together our methodology we will make as much of a splash as we rapidly deploy small cells in the marketplace.”