The Benefits of a Smaller, Lighter, Stronger and More Flexible Armored Fiber Optic Innovation for DAS Installations.   

There are many networking concerns and challenges associated with a DAS installation.  Each facility and ultimately each DAS design is different with varying requirements of coverage areas, access points, and structural considerations as well as data demand, capacity and usage.  DAS stands for a Distributed Antenna System and is also referred to as In-Building Wireless.  A DAS is essentially a network of antennas strategically placed throughout a facility in order to provide enhanced cellular wireless coverage or service to devices and end users with that facility.  While many people have a general understanding of DAS, and undoubtedly enjoyed the benefits of it, there are intricacies of installing or implementing a DAS system that are complex.  In this article we address the fiber optic connectivity of a DAS system, which makes up the backbone of this application.

According to Cisco’s Visual Networking Index, global mobile data traffic is growing almost three times as fast as fixed IP traffic and wireless and mobile devices will account for two-thirds of total IP traffic by 2020.  Research indicates that up to 80% of mobile traffic either originates or terminates within a building.  Furthermore, an Infonectics Research study showed the number of DAS nodes being purchased nearly doubled between 2013 and 2017, and only a very small percentage of buildings that would benefit from a DAS system actually have one in place.  DAS applications will continue to be an important and growing part of the industry, for wireless carriers as well as from an enterprise infrastructure perspective.

Some of the more common implementations of a DAS are in large facilities such as stadiums, arenas, and exhibition centers, where there are fluctuations in signal demand coinciding with events and with big spikes in the concentration of people expecting wireless service.  DAS is also an important application in large and complex buildings, either commercial/office buildings, residential structures, or other large facilities, where normal wireless services is limited due to the location or by the buildings themselves with complex layers of building materials, walls, insulation, etc. that make up the building structure.  We’ve all been in a building where your signal drops out, then you move to a different area and your bars return.  Other types of facilities and locations that use a Distributed Antenna System are Hospitals, Airports, Hotels, Transit Hubs & Stations, Undergrounds & Subways Systems, Transit Tunnels, College Campuses and Universities.

An important aspect of the DAS industry is that Distributed Antenna Systems are often installed or retrofitted subsequent to a building or facility being in operation.  The majority of new DAS installations are currently done in existing buildings or as an upgrade/expansion to an older system.  This poses many challenges in terms of access points, working within existing building infrastructure, minimizing disruptive construction, and how to manage and secure the fiber optic cables that ultimately connect these antennas.    DAS systems are a textbook example of how a Micro Armor Fiber™ innovation benefits a project across multiple levels from contractor to the end user.  DAS systems use fiber optic cabling to connect the multitude of antennas, which is some cases can be in the hundreds.   More often than not these fiber optic cables need to be armored, which means they have a protective case around the fiber cable.  Why do so many DAS installations require an armored fiber optic solution?  Simply stated, the environments in which they are installed are considered aggressive in terms of cabling standards (active, congested pathways and existing infrastructure) while the reliance on the connectivity and expectations of a system’s longevity are very high.

For far too long, the industry standard has been Aluminum Interlocking Armor, which is disproportionately large compared to the fibers they encase.  They are heavy, cumbersome and not nearly as flexible as non-armored versions of the same fiber optic cables.

Roman Krawczyk, CTO of TiniFiber Discusses Armored Fiber Optic Connectivity in DAS Applications

The benefits of a smaller, lighter, stronger, and more flexible armored fiber optic solution in a DAS application are numerous.  From the system provider (Contractor, Installer) standpoint, there is a substantial reduction in labor costs and overall manpower hours associated with armored fiber DAS installations.  The reduced weight and size of TiniFiber speak to this directly.  And we’re not talking about slightly; Micro Armor Fiber is 65% smaller and 75% Lighter than its AIA counterpart.  When you start adding up the amount of fiber optic cables required for a Distributed Antenna System and the fact that there are often multiple runs and redundancy, the difference becomes exponential.  Shipping costs alone can be a major differential on a large project.

From the installation perspective, once the fiber optic cable is on-site and the more nimble crew is ready to start laying fiber, the functionality of Micro Armor Fiber™ becomes very apparent.  With its unprecedented armored flexibility TiniFiber can rather effortlessly be run through tight pathways, around tight bends and in small conduits like no other armored cable can.   The installations will be more efficient, take less time and deliver a secure armored connectivity solution.  The end user (the facility) benefits from a faster project turnaround, less disruption, minimal impact on the existing infrastructure allowing for future upgrades, and the assurance that their DAS connectivity will be secure.

While it is recognized that fiber optic cables used in a DAS systems should be armored to ensure the integrity of the connectivity, from a building infrastructure standpoint the use of disproportionately large AIA cables to do so only further propagates the problem of congestion, limiting access for maintenance and future upgrades, while taking longer to install and ultimately adding costs to the project.  You cannot have an agile fiber optic network connecting your DAS system if you’re using Aluminum Interlocking Armor (AIA).   The use of TiniFiber Micro Armor Fiber should be considered Best Practice for DAS project installations.