📶 You Never Want a Dead Zone in an Emergency!

How is cellphone coverage in your building? Is it costing you wasted time - and more importantly, serious risk in a crisis situation?
Nov 11, 2022

Here’s a sobering fact from the National Emergency Number Association: An estimated 240 million calls are made to 9-1-1 in the U.S. each year. In many areas, 80% or more are from wireless devices.


Now, think about the wireless coverage in a concrete or glass-clad building. Concrete is great for hurricanes; bad for cellphone service. Similarly, low-e glass is excellent for energy-efficiency; lousy for cellular signals.


Which brings us to the title of this article: 📶You Never Want a Dead Zone in an Emergency!


When in an emergency…reach for your mobile!

Today, most people keep their mobile devices at their fingertips. In a crisis situation, they reach for their pockets, not the panic button.


What may be lesser known is the need for emergency services to have connectivity inside buildings. Firefighters and other first responders use portable radios to communicate and coordinate their crisis response. However, the same elements that impede cellular service inside a building, can also impede emergency radio transmissions. If this line of communication fails, as we’ve seen in recent tragic cases, the consequences can be devastating.


There are industry standards in place that ensure public safety, such as the NFPA’s standards for emergency services communication which states that all “critical areas” of a building must have 95% signal coverage. However, a standard is only as good as the solution that upholds it.


Channeling wireless into a cellular-challenged building

Typically, the workaround to ensure consistent and powerful cellular coverage in an otherwise cellular-challenged building is to implement a “DAS”. DAS stands for Distributed Antenna System and it works by repeating the available outside radio signal over a system of small interior antennas within the building. The interior antennas disperse the radio signal throughout the building to provide continuous and reliable coverage.


The key to an effective DAS solution is ensuring the strength of the external radio signal. For this, we partner with the cellular providers, such as Verizon, AT&T and Sprint, to pair up the signal emitting from their cell towers with the antenna mounted on the client’s building. After that, we install a combination of fiber optic cable, coaxial and twisted-pair cable to maintain the integrity of the signal as it traverses the building.


But, what about 5G?

5G creates an interesting situation when it comes to signal coverage. 5G uses shorter wave lengths to give the user faster connectivity with lower latency. 5G is a game-changer for environments with a multitude of IoT devices. When your mobile phone is competing with the Wi-Fi printer next to your desk, the smart copier down the hall, the connected water fountain, and your favorite co-workers for its slice of bandwidth, 5G makes space for all.


The downside of 5G is its vulnerability to interferences. Common physical obstacles, like concrete, glass and metal can create dead zones. If a DAS solution was not needed until now, it may become necessary with the universal adoption of 5G service.


As for existing DAS solutions: If they was installed before 2013 – or before 4G wireless – it may not be equipped to recognize the 5G frequencies. This is because 5G, in its most ultra-fast form, relies on a multitude of smaller, lower power cell bases. What worked in a DAS-equipped building now, may need upgrading or replacing in the future. While 2G and 3G are steadily getting phased out of usage, the industry doesn’t expect 4G devices to become obsolete anytime soon. But 5G is where the next generation of cellular is heading, and facility directors would be wise to be prepared and get equipped.


Pay now or Pay-As-You-Go

We offer two types of DAS installations. A project-based solution that requires an upfront payment, or else a WaaS (Wireless-as-a-Solution) service where we lease the solution for a recurring payment. Both solutions include analysis and design with our highly trained and widely certified engineers. Please contact us for a consultation.