Indoor cellular coverage is becoming increasingly more important- literally by the day. The Pew Research Center reports that smartphone ownership has increased dramatically over the course of 2011-2012, from 35% to 46% of US adults, totaling a 31% increase in less than one year. Add to this the research conducted by Ericsson reported in 2012, showing a 600% increase in mobile data transmissions between the third quarter of 2009 and fourth quarter of 2011 alone, and it becomes undeniably evident that we are knee deep in the wireless revolution. In fact, 80% of multifamily residents now use their mobile phones as their primary phone, as the land line slowly recedes into the night of technologies past. The disappearance of the corded phone is being solidified by new business models introduced by money hungry cell phone companies; these giants are privy to the fact that data usage far outweighs voice communications, and have incented consumers to do away with land lines, by offering unlimited talk time, while adding (not-so-unlimited) data usage fees.
All of these changes, quite rapid changes mind you, are creating unintended consequences for many multifamily building owners and residents alike. As the building industry shifts focus towards energy conservation and more sustainable building practices it has become evident that many of the new building materials are particular resistant to cellular service penetration. As you can imagine, this is posing a huge problem for building owners and residents, especially as people become increasingly reliant on wireless technologies. If residents don’t have cellular service inside their homes, how will they make calls to friends and family? More importantly, how will they call 911?? These questions are not to be ignored.
Over 20 times a week someone from the multifamily industry is contacting Spot On Networks for suggestions on how to deal with this difficult, time-consuming, and potentially very costly issue. At Spot On Networks we have dedicated an enormous amount of time to helping building owners combat their cellular dilemmas, and are happy to say, we have just the solution for you.
The right answer can vary from property to property, dependent on the exact circumstances, budget, and level of convenience necessary for residents. The first solution is the DAS System. DAS stands for Distributed Antenna System, and can be quite costly to implement, coupled with extensive installation. Spot On has configured a solution to not only eliminate poor cellular coverage, but to offset the cost of installing an extravagant DAS System: CellBOOST. CellBOOST typically costs about 1/5 of a DAS System, AND provides property wide WiFi. CellBOOST boosts cellular signal within a building by strategically placing a number of bidirectional amplifiers within the building, and a donor antennae on the roof which receives the cellular service from outdoors. CellBOOST is non-carrier specific, and is Passpoint 2.0 ready for the up and coming technologies.
The second possible solution would be to use existing WiFi applications. If WiFi is available at a property, residents can use mobile VoIP applications, such as Skype as an alternative phone service to make all of their calls, including calls to emergency services- however the location of said caller is not as visible as otherwise. For texting, there is an app called WhatsApp, which enables texts to be sent via Wi-Fi.
Lastly, the lonely Femtocell. The Femtocell is a small, low-power cellular base station designed for in home use. Although each carrier dubs the device something different, all versions are similar operationally: Plug in an internet cable, and use cell service from a single carrier (hence the “lonely”) in an individual apartment (for a fee, of course).
All of these solutions have their own pros and cons, however, when we take a look at the future, it becomes clear that the more effective solution for the long term would be along the lines of CellBOOST. Within a few months, the WiFi Alliance and the Wireless Broadband Alliance will release a compatible set of protocols and procedures that make WiFi networks complementary to cell carrier networks. The service, called Hotspot 2.0, uses the WiFi Alliance’s Passpoint 2.0 certification procedure for product certification to promote secure, seamless roaming between cell services and WiFi networks. (Read more here.) The first Hotspot 2.0 solution is expected to be introduced during 2013. Some access points are already Passpoint 2.0 certified, such as those deployed by Spot On Networks, used in CellBOOST. It is imperative to take a look at your property’s cellular coverage issues with an eye on the future- the DAS System will not hold up to the Hotspot 2.0, and neither will Femtocell. With all of these solutions available, cellular coverage issues within a building are soon to be a thing of the past (much like the beloved land line…), however, the important thing is choosing the right solution for your needs, and one that will stand the test of time.