Better Hotel Wireless: How to Evaluate Total Cost and Future-Readiness of DAS
Approximately 77 percent of hospitality workers say they deal with poor indoor coverage – and that should be a major concern for hotels. Why? Because if hotel employees are having connectivity troubles, then hotel guests definitely are, too.
As legacy wireless infrastructure ages and more options come onto the market, many hotels are considering a method for in-building wireless called a distributed antenna system (DAS) that offers high capacity and reliability, ensuring that guests and employees can stay connected.
When exploring DAS options, many hoteliers’ decisions focus on the bottom line – naturally, everyone wants the best bang for their buck, and for many types of purchases, that mostly applies to the initial cash layout. But focusing on the initial financial outlay for DAS is a mistake; instead a today-and-tomorrow approach is required.
In this article, Zinwave discusses three primary factors, in addition to the core hardware costs, that account for the total cost of ownership (TCO) of any DAS system.
The Cost of Cabling and Ancillary Hardware
A system might claim to use fiber cabling, but that might not necessarily mean it is fiber based – many DAS systems do use fiber at some point, but most are a hybrid of fiber and coaxial cable.
A hybrid system is more difficult to install, more intrusive to the building where it is being installed, and more expensive. It uses fiber cabling as the backbone, but the coaxial cabling goes out to the antennas (the equipment that distributes the now-amplified cellular signal that mobile devices use).
In addition to this cabling, the system might require ancillary equipment unaccounted for in the initial hardware estimate, whether that’s special building-specific hardware or additional antennas because of the way the hotel is laid out.
The optimal DAS system uses fiber cabling throughout the system all the way to the antennas. In many situations, an all-fiber DAS system can utilize existing fiber infrastructure in a hotel.
The Real Cost of Installation
Coaxial cable is not as flexible as fiber cabling, which may mean longer runs are needed to get from point A to point B. Longer runs require more man-hours to install. Additionally, a team of people will likely need to access ceilings, which adds even more installation time. This means that not only is the cable itself is more expensive than fiber, but the installation itself will cost more. And with blocks of rooms unavailable to guests while teams of installers work in the ceiling, a hotel must also factor lost revenue into the total cost.
The Cost to Meet Future Connectivity Needs
Many hotel operators hope to push off big decisions on technology to wait and see if something better comes along or if prices drop. But with the industry already deep into 5G network development, hotels will need to add new frequencies to expand their network’s capacity and ensure they are future-ready.
Of course, not every hotel has the resources for the capital outlay required to purchase an in-building wireless platform. Unfortunately, the immediate need for improved indoor cellular connectivity is a business concern that cannot be ignored. In those cases, there is a solution: cellular as a service (CaaS).
Ownership vs. Operational Expense
With the CaaS option, improved connectivity becomes an operational expense. In this model, the solution is available on a monthly, per-square-foot basis and includes deployment and on-going system monitoring and maintenance. Any new frequency or operator additions or additional coverage may change the monthly cost, but those additions would not involve any capital outlays by the hotel, as they would be covered as part of the service.
To meet current and future needs of hotel guests and event attendees requires reliable connectivity. A DAS solution that seems like a luxury today will be a necessity for any hotel that wants to support how people communicate in the very near future.
To help determine the TCO of a DAS system, ask a prospective partner these targeted questions:
- Is it full spectrum, and able to support all of the utilized cellular frequencies available today between 150 MHz and 2700 MHz on one single hardware layer?
- Is it fully fiber based, instead of coaxial cable based or a hybrid of coaxial cable and fiber, to keep costs lower and installation time to a minimum?
- How much hardware needs to be installed? Is it complicated? Are there multiple components to install that will add to installation time and costs?
- Is it multi-carrier – does it give access to all guests, event/convention attendees and employees within the building, no matter what carrier they use?
- Does the system support adding carriers and frequency bands without the need for additional hardware or expensive upgrades?
Not all DAS systems are created equally, and it’s critical that a hotel’s investment pay off for years to come. With careful consideration of TCO and the future-readiness of a selected system, a hotel will be well positioned to not only solve current connectivity needs, but also take advantage of tomorrow’s technologies.