Is DRS the new DAS?
Distributed Antenna System (DAS) solutions have been the sweetheart of the in-building wireless industry for a long time, and it is clear to understand why. Operator neutral and cost effective, they offer a simple solution to delivering multi-operator, multi-technology coverage indoors. However, as we move into a 5G era, it is becoming more and more clear that Distributed Radio Systems (DRS) solutions are set to occupy more of the limelight as an answer to some of the biggest in-building challenges that next generation networks will bring. The question is, will DRS be a solution that will ever fully eclipse DAS?
DAS vs DRS
Traditional DAS solutions deal with in-building connectivity challenges by installing relatively small repeater antennas throughout a building connected to a single central controller and to date have worked very well for in building installations.
DRS on the other hand, has typically been the remit of high-capacity venues; stadiums, conference centers, train stations and not necessarily the go-to solution for indoor wireless. However, as 5G becomes more mainstream we expect to see a significant shift towards DRS for a much broader range of indoor applications. This DRS works with a similar principle, but the distributed modules include both an antenna and radiohead. The benefit is a streamlined architecture that is able to support a number of advanced features from MIMO to flexible capacity scaling. This, combined with better performance in 5G frequencies when compared to DAS, makes it a very logical choice to deploy 5G in buildings.
In the real-world
It’s clear to see the technical benefits of deploying DRS for 5G but how does this work in practice. There’s been a huge amount of conversation in the industry about DRS and the best way to make use of this style of network architecture. A key aspect that will dictate the uptake of DRS rollouts will be if the system is operator neutral. The additional functionality that comes with a DRS system naturally has a cost implication and ensuring a neutral host model is the only way to make it commercially viable. A further and significant challenge associated with 5G rollouts more generally is concealment – MNOs need to deliver greater capacity than ever before without visibly expanding the volume of equipment that is seen by the end user. OEMs that take this into consideration and design equipment that can be concealed will play a big role in shaping the future of in building coverage.
A layered approach
It would be a complete overstatement to say that DRS will replace DAS in the 5G world. The reality is that the two will exist side by side. The DAS systems in place are not made redundant by the advent of 5G; far from it. 4G and 5G will coexist and therefore it makes sense to keep in place existing 3G/4G DAS system and add a DRS solution for 5G, taking a layered approach. At RFS we work closely to understand the needs of our customers and develop solutions that are designed with their specific challenges in mind. This gives us one of the most comprehensive portfolios on the market that can support a variety of approaches to tackle in-building coverage. Alongside the array of solutions themselves, we have our Assured Wireless Solution Program which means we can assist customers with every step of the 5G journey from planning services, to installation. Delivering 5G in-buildings will ultimately be a huge factor in the success of the network generation. Therefore, it is key that the technology critical to delivering this is designed to add the necessary network complexity, in a way that is simple and streamlined and a layer DAS and DRS approach does just this.
If you would like to hear more about how RFS’s Assured Wireless Solution Program can help to address the inbuilding challenges associated with 5G get in touch with Andrew Paulley Managing Director of RFS UK.