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Active DAS Challenges Small Cells on the Road to 5G

There is fierce competition between Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) and small cells vendors for coverage and capacity in the $US 8.5 billion enterprise in-building wireless systems market with each vendor having distinct strengths and weaknesses, according to ABI Research.

Modern DAS systems challenge small cells by building on their inherent advantages of neutral host, and macrocell parity and adding features such as traffic steering and multiple network convergence (for example Wi-Fi or public safety) on the same in-building backhaul. They also challenge small cells by tackling one of the main drawbacks: cost per sq. foot of installation and OPEX needed for system cooling and operation.

However, small cells do not immediately provide a neutral host capability and are complex to configure and virtualize since the baseband, unlike DAS, is distributed in each small cell which must coordinate with its neighbor to mitigate interference.

Hybrid systems are a recent development where the best of DAS and small cells merge. “These systems centralize the baseband function like DAS but use Cloud RAN (CRAN) techniques to distribute signals over dedicated fiber to remote radio heads in the building,” says Nick Marshall, research director, networks. “ABI Research believes that it is innovations such as these that are laying the groundwork for in-building 5G.”

Part of ABI Research’s Enterprise and Consumer Femtocells, In-Building Wireless, and Small Cells Market Research, these findings come from a new report entitled “DAS Rises to the Small Cell Challenge” which discusses this market and profiles 17 companies active in this area. The small cell vendors discussed are Airvana, Alcatel-Lucent, Cisco, Ericsson, Huawei, ip.access, NEC, Nokia and SpiderCloud. The DAS vendors profiled are Axell, Commscope, Corning, Dali Wireless, Kathrein, SOLiD, TE Connectivity, and Zinwave.

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