Understanding the Differences between Small Cell and DAS

By Telecom Tech Outlook | Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Without a doubt, cellphone signals have improved significantly over the years. However, not everyone can make calls, download videos, or operate apps when they’re on the move. Properties can be affected by several obstructions like fortified construction, tall trees, and heavy traffic.

FREMONT, CA: The confusion surrounding small cells and distributed antenna systems have been ongoing for a long time as both the technologies make use of compact radio equipment to improve the signal in different coverage areas; building owners may believe that they’re practically interchangeable. However, while the two technologies share several similarities, there are significant differences in the design, installation, and deployment of each network. Both the technologies are forms of in-building wireless that property owners can use to augment their existing coverage.

Top 10 Small Cell and DAS Consulting/Service Companies - 2020Without a doubt, cellphone signals have improved considerably over the years. However, not everyone can make calls, download videos, or operate apps when they’re on the move. Properties can be affected by several obstructions like fortified construction, tall trees, and heavy traffic. This often frustrates users and impedes productivity. It can also interfere with public safety in the event of an emergency.

The difference between the two technologies essentially comes down to how the systems are configured and operated. With small cell, each node has a single power source. The cells work by themselves, unlike DAS, where all antennas connected to an available remote function as one unit. DAS is also more versatile, can support several frequencies, whereas small cells can only help one or a few cases two. This translates into DAS being able to handle multiple carriers and the small cell being primarily single carrier only.

Also, DAS only needs one backhaul pipe, but each small cell requires its connection. DAS can use base stations to convert a signal, or they can rely solely on the antennas to carry the signal from outside, which means DAS typically requires a lot more equipment than small cells. DAS was also designed to support a large number of users, unlike the small cell. A Single base transceiver station (BTS) can handle nearly 2,000 users. Meanwhile, a single cell may only support up to 25 people.

Small cells are more suited for smaller buildings that rarely experience a sharp influx in traffic. In general, small cell technology is more comfortable and less expensive to install when compared to DAS. Wireless coverage can be improved significantly, with relatively simple nodes that are placed throughout the property. The design process for small cells typically involves finding all dead zones on the property before placing a node in the area to provide adequate coverage.

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