Tenants look for affordability, convenience, and amenities when searching for their next apartment. Safety is also a priority and can help to differentiate your buildings from other properties.
Exterior lights, security cameras, gates, fencing, security personnel, window and door locks, and electronic locks are all on the list of safety features that your apartment buildings can offer to provide tenants with peace of mind. This list, however, misses a very important component of a comprehensive safety plan: cellular coverage.
During an emergency, the ability to communicate with emergency personnel, property management, and even family and friends from a mobile phone can help prevent or mitigate serious injury, property damage, and even death. The key to enabling reliable communications is stable cellular coverage in your buildings. However, this can be a challenge due to a number of factors ranging from materials used in building construction to obstructions that visibly block line-of-sight to cellular towers. Fortunately, new smart coverage solutions have added an entirely new dimension to affordable in-building cellular coverage for residential apartment buildings and are enabling a new level of safety in these buildings.
Challenges and solutions for in-building cellular coverage
Cellular technologies have advanced significantly over the years. Cellular signals outdoors are typically of good quality because of the sheer number of cell towers that carriers have put up to respond to the ever-growing demand for constant cellular connectivity. But many times, building materials such as LEED windows, concrete or rebar, as well as busy, urban environments, and underground or remote locations can block carrier signals from entering apartment facilities. This can result in spotty cellular coverage, dropped calls, or what many refer to as “dead zones.” Oftentimes, poor cellular reception is encountered in indoor and outdoor parking facilities as well as stairwells, laundry rooms, basements, elevators, and of course, in apartment units, especially those in high-rise buildings. A lack of reliable cellular coverage can put your tenants, and your property, at risk, as well as frustrate occupants.
While Wi-Fi has historically been a low cost option for many buildings, it is unreliable and does not deliver the performance that today’s connected world requires. On the other end of the spectrum is traditional Active DAS (Distributed Antenna System), which offers high performance coverage but for most facilities, is cost-prohibitive, often costing hundreds of thousands of dollars and taking up to 18 months to install. In contrast, active DAS hybrid solutions combine the digital distribution performance benefits of traditional active DAS, but at a much lower price point. They are used to ensure reliable cellular coverage in multiple environments, from underground parking facilities and buildings as large as a million square feet to high-rise buildings. For spaces smaller than 30,000 square feet, there are also smart signal boosters that can be easily installed inside or outdoors. The Cel-Fi line of cellular coverage products offer the highest-grade solutions available in the market and can provide up to 1000x more gain than solutions based on older analog technology.
Different cellular innovations for different uses
There are a variety of cellular innovations to address a wide range of coverage challenges in different environments in apartment facilities. For example, cellular signal can be weak in many outdoor parking lots and indoor parking structures, and what’s often needed is a reliable cellular signal booster that is powerful and flexible enough to overcome the unique challenges posed in both outdoor and indoor environments. Marcus Carstens, business operations lead at Waveform, which custom designs cell signal boosters for a wide variety of applications, regularly recommends the Cel-Fi GO Smart Signal Booster line for both indoor and outdoor parking garages up to 30,000 square feet.
For any building up to a million square feet, there are affordable, all-digital active DAS hybrid solutions, such as Cel-Fi QUATRA, that provide uniform, high-quality cellular signal and can help you overcome the biggest and most complex connectivity challenges. For example, with QUATRA, antennas can be installed inside an elevator shaft or just outside elevator doors, so when someone is in the elevator, they can still maintain their call if they’re going between floors. The antennas also blend in with other equipment such as Wi-Fi access points, fire alarms, or smoke detectors.
When deployed alongside an active DAS hybrid solution such as Cel-Fi QUATRA, other exciting innovations like the Cel-Fi QUATRA Fiber HUB can address challenging coverage issues in high-rise buildings or skyscrapers at a fraction of the cost of a traditional DAS. The Fiber HUB expands cellular coverage in QUATRA deployments by distributing the donor signal via optical fiber from one building or location to another as far as 1.25 miles away. Both of these industry-leading systems are carrier-approved and guaranteed network safe.
It’s an important decision to move forward with an in-building cellular coverage solution. The best starting point is to have a walk-through assessment of your buildings done by a wireless expert who can identify the problem areas and where you need to prioritize your efforts. Once you begin evaluating solutions, ask your vendor or integrator partner the following questions to ensure your current and future building occupants’ needs will be met:
- Does the solution work for both single and multi-building applications?
- What is the actual coverage footprint of the system (not just the specifications)?
- How long will it take to install?
- Is it network safe and carrier approved?
- Is it future proof?
In-building cellular coverage has now become an important tool in providing tenants with the safety and peace of mind they are looking for in their home. Don’t let your buildings fall behind. Learn more about the lineup of Cel-Fi smart cellular coverage solutions at: www.cel-fi.com.
A version of this article was originally published by the American Apartment Owners Association.