The use of wireless data by mobile devices is exploding at an exponential rate. As we have transitioned from 3G to 4G wireless services, more and more consumers and businesses are reliant on high-speed, high-bandwidth mobile data connections. Today’s smartphones and tablets are every bit as powerful and capable as yesterday’s laptops and desktops. Streaming video and interactive gaming are quickly supplanting static web pages and social media as the go-to applications for mobile users.
While technology improvements, such as video compression and advanced antenna arrays, have increased the efficiency of our wireless networks, carriers can only keep up with the demand created by the data explosion through deployment of new radio spectrum and network densification (an increased number of antennas to cover a given area). As a consequence, the base station equipment and antennas that make up wireless networks must be placed closer to the end users.
Most new radio spectrum coming on the market is of higher frequency than what was utilized previously. Due to the propagation characteristics of these higher frequencies, they do not travel as far (without significantly increased power) as the lower band frequencies, necessitating more antennas placed closer together. Along those same lines, network densification allows wireless carriers to reuse the same frequencies more often by placing their antennas closer together, so that their customers can get more use out of a particular cell site’s limited bandwidth.
The end result of these two trends is that wireless carriers are no longer looking exclusively to the tallest building in town to place antennas on its roof, or building tall towers on the highest elevation around. In urban and suburban areas especially, carriers are looking to place antennas on the rooftops of 2, 3 and 4 story buildings and atop light and utility poles. High traffic public areas, such as shopping malls and plazas, sports stadiums, campuses and office parks are attracting their own wireless network infrastructure deployments, called Distributed Antenna Systems, or DAS. These DAS networks allow multiple carriers to provide robust wireless service to these venues, thus improving the overall experience of their occupants, customers and visitors, as well as driving lease revenue to facility owners.