The (True!) Costs Of Cellular DAS

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Since Cell DAS may not be a technology that is spec’d in on every project, it can be difficult to formulate a cost basis for it when creating a development budget. The central challenge to creating a budget is determining the cell DAS or Cellular Repeater system that is the proper fit for the building, and ensuring that all project bids are meeting the base level requirements.

Cell DAS has many disparate solutions, all of which are great fits for some projects, and terrible fits for others. Understanding the options for technology, the cost basis for each, and how to choose the proper fit technology are central to a successful cell DAS roll out.

So- let’s get to the part everyone cares about. The money.

Broadband Cellular Repeaters

These are passive DAS solutions that leverage a coaxial cabling infrastructure through the building. They take signal from outside the building using a donor antenna on the roof and run the signal to an amplifier that boosts the entire spectrum of received signal. These solutions will typically be the most cost effective way to deploy cell coverage into a building, and are also the most common setup that you will see in residential deployments (There are different technology classes to deploy for residential or commercial uses)

Cost: .50/sq ft -> .60/sq ft

Ideal Use Cases: Buildings 10k square ft -> 250k Square ft where base level functionality (Calls/Texts) are the priority for the building. Warehouses, parking garages, small scale MDU, Large Scale Retail

Digital/Hybrid Cellular Repeaters

These systems also leverage the existing cell towers and surrounding cellular environment. Using an antenna on the roof, these solutions bring cell coverage into the building through the use of donor antenna. The signal is brought into a cellular DAS network device inside the building that amplifies, cleans, and converts the signal to digital, before dispersing through a network of horizontal cabling throughout the building. Hybrid Cellular repeaters will bring in stronger signal with more software defined features. The output will be cleaner and stronger, with more of a focus on Data, Text & Voice (Specifically data performance)

These systems also allow the customer to segment carriers, and choose the most relevant carriers to save cost.

Cost: .60/sq ft -> 1.00/sq ft

Ideal Use Cases: Any use case of broadband repeaters + Large Scale MDU, Middleprise Office Space, Midsize hotels, Medical Centers and Hospitals.

Active DAS

Active DAS Systems leverage either a strong exterior signal with the use of a carrier repeater, or they will use a carrier signal source to bring carrier direct signal into the building. Carrier signal source allows for radio hardware that can generate its own signal for the building. This creates a customizable and independent network inside the building, so that the project is not reliant upon exterior cellular signal. The active DAS solution is simply a hardware layer that can be built in different ways to accommodate different signal types. It is highly custom and allows for the end user to decide completely on their own which carriers + carriers bands are most vital inside the building.

In recent years, the solution options have expanded to include coaxial driven solution, category cabling based solutions, and fully fiber to the edge solutions. Each provide their own advantages and disadvantages which makes this product type the largest of all the solutions.

Cost: 1.10 /sq ft -> 2.50 /sq ft

Carrier Signal Source will be an additional cost (In most instances). Costs are dependent on building size and number of users. Contact us for rules of thumb to use.

Ideal Use Cases: Large scale & luxury MDU, Large scale Hotel, Class A Office Space exceeding 250k square feet, Event and conference centers, transit depots and major sporting venues.

What about carriers? Don’t they help with the cost?

This can be a (literal) million dollar question. And the answer has changed drastically over the past decade. To insert some of my own experience, I have deep experience across every major vertical (Healthcare, Hospitality, Commercial Office, MDU, Event Centers, Etc). Customers have asked me over the years if carriers will fund the system like they used to. For some developers, ALL of their projects used to get completely funded by carriers, and carriers were happy to pay to join their systems. (Traditionally, this was most present in large scale Class A commercial Office and 300+ Room Hotels). Carriers wanted a presence in these buildings to continue to grow their customer base in a rapidly maturing marketing. As the carrier directives for CapEx spending have changed, carrier funding is only available in large scale athletic venues/concert halls/and the most premier hotel and conference centers.