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Amplified.

In this age of constant connectedness, with 95% of Americans using mobile phones, everyone who sets foot in your building expects a strong, clear cellular signal, regardless of the mobile carrier they use. If you’re looking to improve the cellular signal on your premises, you’ll definitely want to find a carrier-agnostic solution to ensure that you meet the needs of all tenants, employees, and visitors. 

Carrier-agnostic solutions offer a number of benefits: 
 
Enhanced User Experience 

  • Consistent and reliable connectivity regardless of the user’s carrier 
  • Avoidance of dead zones specific to one carrier 

Flexibility 

  • The ability to switch carriers without changing infrastructure (if you have a business plan with a specific carrier) 
  • Seamless guest experience (no interruptions of having to log into guest WiFi) 

Cost-Effectiveness 

  • No need for multiple carrier-specific solutions—one solution works for all  
  • Less redundant systems and infrastructure (streamlined infrastructure management) for lower cost of ownership 

Carrier-Agnostic Makes Sense in the Real World 

There are a variety of scenarios in which carrier-agnostic solutions are particularly beneficial. These include retail locations where shoppers on multiple networks need to use a POS app; software companies with a BYOD (bring your own device) policy; and manufacturing BYOD environments where the machine-to-machine communications (IoT) are all on one network (which could be carrier-specific or private). 

The burden of fixing weak network signals used to be on the carriers themselves. However, due to demand, time, and installation complexities, it has become less practical to upgrade cellular infrastructure at the carrier level. Because of this, businesses need to find solutions for improving the coverage in their own buildings.  

And since carriers in the U.S. have largely ceased to own cell towers, they have come to understand the benefits of all-encompassing connectivity solutions and recognize that carrier-agnostic signal repeaters and distributed antenna systems (DAS) are the right solution for their business customers. 

FCC Part 20 – a Big Boost to Wireless Connectivity 

The push to install signal amplification technology was accelerated in February 2013, when the FCC issued Part 20 of its Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). This included rules and policies to enhance wireless coverage for consumers, particularly in rural, underserved, and difficult-to-serve areas. The new rules broadened the availability of signal amplification technologies while ensuring they do not adversely affect wireless networks.  

Part 20 went into effect in March 2014, and included stipulations that allow consumers to use signal repeaters to amplify wireless signals in areas where coverage is weak—without approval from the FCC or specific carriers. Part 20 also prohibits signal repeaters from interfering with other wireless networks.  

Affordable, practical signal amplification technology is now readily available to deliver advanced carrier-agnostic connectivity to your organization. The solution you choose will depend on the size of your facility, its location, and your business needs. Whichever option you choose, it becomes critical connectivity infrastructure and can substantially improve the quality and consistency of the wireless signals you get within your building. 

Selecting a Carrier-Agnostic Solution 

There are a few main points to keep in mind as you decide which solution is right for you.  

First, consider your specific business requirements, the size and nature of the building structure, as well as the needs of those who will be using mobile phones onsite. 

You’ll also want to make safety coverage a priority. Of course, ensuring that everyone on location can make a 9-1-1 call from anywhere on the premises is critical. But in an emergency, first responders will also need to communicate with each other and use their wireless equipment in order to do their jobs. Make sure you have the frequency coverage to handle all of it. 

While you’re looking for a system that can handle all carriers–not just the big three (Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile), remember to also look for a system designed to handle the frequencies you need to cover. Carriers may not use the same frequencies in your location as they use somewhere else, so you’ll need to work with a team of experts to help you determine what bands will be required to accomplish your objectives in your specific location. 

In this article, we’ll cover the basics of repeater systems, private networks, and distributed antenna systems (DAS). 

Repeater Systems 

Repeaters capture the signal from a source, amplify it, and then rebroadcast it within a specific area. An exterior (usually roof-mounted) antenna captures the radio signal from towers, which is then amplified by a bi-directional antenna (BDA) and distributed via coax to indoor antennas.   

On what bands does it work? 

  • Repeaters can work on a variety of bands, depending on the design and purpose of the repeater. Common bands include those permitted by FCC Part 20 (700 MHz, 850 MHz, 1900 MHz, 1700/2100 MHz). The specific bands a repeater operates on will depend on its design and the intended service it’s meant to amplify (e.g., a specific cellular service). 

Who provides the signal? 

  • The original signal that a repeater amplifies and rebroadcasts typically comes from an external source. For a cellular repeater, this might be one or more nearby cell towers. The repeater doesn’t generate its own signal. It’s designed to amplify and extend an existing one. 

Can it be carrier agnostic? 

  • Yes. Repeater systems for indoor connectivity can be made carrier agnostic. They work across multiple carriers as long as the signal falls within the frequency bands the repeater is designed for. When purchasing and installing a repeater system, it’s essential to ensure that it’s compatible with the frequencies and services you need to amplify. 

Private Networks 

A private network for indoor connectivity refers to a network infrastructure that is specifically designed to provide wireless connectivity within a confined indoor space, such as a corporate office, factory, warehouse, or other facility. These networks can offer more control, security, reliability, and customization than using a public network. 

On what bands does it work? 

Private networks can operate on various frequency bands. They can use licensed spectrum, unlicensed spectrum, or shared spectrum. 

  • Licensed Spectrum: Some enterprises might get a license for a particular band. This ensures interference-free operation but can be more expensive and is subject to regulatory approval. 
  • Unlicensed Spectrum: This includes bands like 2.4GHz and 5GHz used for Wi-Fi. Anyone can set up a network on these bands without a license, but there’s a potential for interference from other devices. 
  • Shared Spectrum: In some regions, regulatory authorities have opened up specific bands for shared use, like the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) in the U.S. This allows for cellular-like operations in a shared manner, offering a middle ground between licensed and unlicensed spectrum. 

Who provides the signal? 

  • The signal in a private network is provided by the network infrastructure set up within the indoor facility. This can include devices such as access points (for Wi-Fi) or small cells (for cellular technology). 
  • An organization may set up and manage this network independently, or they might partner with a service provider or a third-party company specializing in private networks. 

Can it be carrier agnostic? 

  • Yes, a private network can be carrier agnostic. This means that the network infrastructure does not favor or is not tied to a specific public mobile network operator (MNO). Devices from any carrier can connect, assuming they’re compatible with the technology and frequencies used. 
  • Especially in cases where the network uses unlicensed or shared spectrum, the network can easily be set up in a way that is independent of the traditional carriers. 
  • However, if an organization wants to extend the capabilities of a specific MNO into their private network (for seamless handoff between the outdoor and indoor network, for instance), then they might set up a network that is tied to a specific carrier. 

In essence, private networks for indoor connectivity offer organizations the ability to customize their wireless environments to their specific needs, which can be particularly valuable for applications requiring high reliability, low latency, or enhanced security. 

Active DAS 

Active Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) for indoor connectivity are networks of secondary hubs and remote radio units connected to a common source, used to provide enhanced and consistent wireless coverage across large or complex areas. They are designed to ensure uniform and strong signal coverage in large facilities, multi-story buildings, campuses, or areas with challenging radio frequency (RF) conditions. 

On what bands does it work? 

Active DAS is the preferred solution for places with high user density or where comprehensive multi-band, multi-service coverage is necessary. They work across a broad range of frequency bands, including FCC Part 20 bands, public safety bands, and many other bands depending on the bandwidth of the DAS. The specific bands an active DAS supports will depend on its design, the equipment used, and the services it’s intended to distribute. 

Who provides the signal? 

The signal for an active DAS typically comes from a source known as a “backhaul” or “base station.” This source can be: 

  • A direct connection to a mobile network operator’s (MNO’s) core network 
  • Off-air, where the system captures, amplifies, and distributes a signal from a nearby cell tower 
  • Other sources, like local 2-way radio equipment for specific use cases (e.g., public safety networks) 

The backhaul feeds the signal to the DAS, which then actively amplifies and distributes it throughout the desired coverage area using a network of antennas. 

Can it be carrier agnostic?  

Yes. While most active DAS are carrier agnostic, which is particularly beneficials in airports, stadiums, shopping malls or other venues where users on different carriers all need good connectivity, carrier-specific DAS solutions are also available. These tend to be financed or set up by a particular carrier. 

An active DAS system has a few distinct benefits: 

  • Fewer components: Active DAS is comprised of fewer components, so the system is easier to install and maintain. 
  • More energy efficient: This system is energy efficient by design.  
  • Less space required: Space in the tech closet or on the rack is increasing at a premium. Consider that WilsonPro Active DAS requires 80% less space than our closest competitor 
  • Use existing fiber: If you have an existing fiber network, you can reuse that network. 

Comparing Your Options 

Here’s a comparative table for the three types of carrier-agnostic, indoor connectivity solutions: 

Feature Repeater System Private Network Active DAS 
Use Case Buildings or areas with weak signal reception from external sources. Corporate offices, factories, warehouses, custom applications. Large venues, multi-story buildings, airports, stadiums, areas with high user density. 
User Technology Required Standard devices that work on the original signal’s frequency. Devices compatible with network technology (e.g., Wi-Fi, LTE). Standard cellular/Wi-Fi devices; no special requirements. 
Timeline Short to medium (installation & tuning). Medium to long (network design, equipment setup). Long (design, installation, optimization). 
Investment Low to medium (depending on the coverage area and type). Medium to high (depending on scale & technology). High (due to complexity, equipment, & design). 
Coverage Limited to areas where the repeater can rebroadcast the signal effectively. Limited to the network’s infrastructure setup; typically for specific areas or buildings. Extensive, designed to cover large or complex areas uniformly. 
Performance Varies; depends on the quality of the original signal and repeater’s capacity. High; customizable and can be optimized for specific needs. High; consistent and uniform coverage across the intended area. 

Note: The specifics can vary based on the exact equipment, technology, design, and vendor solutions. This table offers a generalized overview. 

Hybrid DAS, a Cost-Effective Alternative 

While you’re shopping for a signal amplification solution, you may want to consider hybrid DAS. A hybrid DAS system delivers the best of both repeater and DAS technology: the cost effectiveness of repeaters with the scalability of a fiber system. This type of system enhances signal quality from any carrier, across a broad spectrum of frequencies. 

WilsonPro Hybrid DAS receives, amplifies, and redistributes existing, off-air cellular signal from commercial carriers to bring reliable connectivity indoors. Using multi-tower targeting, an exterior (usually roof-mounted) antenna captures the radio signal, which is then amplified by a bi-directional antenna (BDA) and fed into a primary hub, which distributes an optical signal via fiber to secondary hubs and remote radio units.    

The fiber delivery is the real beauty of hybrid DAS, because it can leverage the existing fiber cabling already installed in your building or between buildings. This can result in lower installation costs and less disruption when the system is installed. 

The WilsonPro Advantage 

Whether you need a repeater, private network, DAS, or Hybrid DAS system, WilsonPro can help you achieve flexible, scalable, and future-ready connectivity infrastructure that fits the needs of your organization. The bottom line is that if the signal is outside, we can bring it in. Our technology will make it available throughout your building for every user, from any carrier, to fill every need. And if the signal you need isn’t there, our backhaul connections are equally agnostic. If connectivity challenges are standing between your organization and its goals, contact us to see how we can help. 

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