Ken Sandfeld, president of Americas, SOLiD, sounds more like an economist these days than an executive at an OEM. He talks as much about concepts like supply and demand as he does about watts and megahertz.
With DAS built out in most of the high-profile arenas, entertainment venues, transportation hubs and Class A office space, in-building wireless looks less like a real estate play where third parties lock up venue rights and more like a utility to be provided by the building owners. The increasing data demand in buildings with supply should be met by building owners in cooperation with carriers, according to Sandfeld.
“We need to solve the problem of being able to meet demand with supply. Demand being the person in the building with the handset and the supply being the carrier,” he said.
Another part of the DAS equation for the “middleprise” (buildings with 100,000 square feet to 500,000 square feet) is lowering the cost and complexity of the equipment to make it more feasible for the building owner.
“We are focusing on providing our customers with a scalable path toward adding new frequency bands,” Sandfeld said. “We don’t want them to have to rip and replace equipment as things change. We are making sure all the current, legacy equipment is protected from change or future-proofed, you might say.
“While some in the DAS industry have been jumping from technology to technology, our plan takes a very long-term view of the longevity and evolution of our current products. We are committed to supporting the Alliance DAS platform as new technologies come in,” he added.
The current technology in the DAS market, predominantly hybrid fiber/coax systems, is complex and expensive. Future systems will consist of either fiber or CAT cabling. Additionally, it is not capable of handling the 5G speeds of the future.
To future-proof their buildings for 5G, Sandfeld suggests that companies pull fiber and CAT6a cables, both of which can handle 10 gigabits, throughout their buildings at a density that is similar to Wi-Fi density.
Cabling changes in the building solve only 20 percent of the problem, according to Sandfeld, and the other 80 percent of the problem is ensuring connectivity for the mobile devices. “That is why DAS has not grown. It is an incomplete solution,” he said.
At Mobile World Congress next year, after several years of development, SOLiD will unveil a new solution for the challenges facing the DAS market.
“SOLiD is solving for the connectivity issues for any operator in the world on any DAS system. The middleprise will buy a turnkey solution if the solution provides a compelling business case for operators to provide their signals to the DAS,” Sandfeld said.
Carriers can’t afford to pay a fixed amount every month for a DAS unless they get a return on their investment. With the exit of carriers as drivers of DAS in the enterprise market, a new business model is needed, according to Sandfeld.
“As far as return on investment is concerned, both parties should see a return,” Sandfeld said. “An operator should only have to pay for the data used in the building, while building owners need to view it as a utility expense upon which they are just trying to recoup some of the investment in the infrastructure.”
How much that data will cost the carrier is subject to the laws of supply and demand and would be negotiated upfront.
“We are solving an economic problem here, not a technology problem,” Sandfeld said. “You can take excess wireless capacity in a building and pair it up with demand from building tenants and visitors and provide access to carriers that want to provide service to their users in that building for a negotiated price.”
For an analogy of this new in-building wireless paradigm, look at the carriers’ use of roaming, where a user can access a network that doesn’t belong to their carrier, then their home carrier simply pays a fee for the usage to the out of network carrier. Sandfeld’s idea sounds a lot like being about roaming onto an in-building wireless that is owned by the enterprise, which then would receive remuneration from the carrier.