Using operator controlled, low power radio access nodes, a small cell network can power a building or specific area. A distributed antenna system (DAS) can meet a similar goal — so what is the difference between small cells and distributed antenna networks?
Distributed antenna networks use fiber optic cables to carry the network signal into hubs, after which the signal is spread using a series of remote antennas. The range of a DAS can be quite large, even though it only requires fiber optic cables to power the central hubs. A DAS can also be powered using ethernet cabling. Because of this, when installing a DAS, the cost and availability of fiber optic cables and/or ethernet cabling should be considered, as the size of the DAS determines the amount of fiber optic cables and/or ethernet cabling needed.
Small cells are connected via backhaul, which is the link between the cell itself and the core network. There are numerous options for connectivity — almost any broadband service can be used. Many small cells use fiber optic cables or ethernet cabling for networking. Whether small cells are powered with fiber optic cables, ethernet cabling, satellite, or other options is usually based on location and availability.
When comparing small cells and distributed antenna networks, price is an important aspect.
Distributed antenna networks are usually far more expensive than small cells. The price of installing distributed antenna networks can range into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. The cost of ethernet cabling and fiber optic cables adds up.
Small cells tend to be more affordable, especially when used to fill a coverage gap in a small area. While distributed antenna networks are certainly worth the expense in some cases, if power is needed in a less expansive range, small cells may be the best choice. Distributed antenna networks may simply offer far more range and power than what is needed.
A DAS can also take longer to install and require more physical changes to a building as ethernet cabling and other hardware is installed. However, this may be worth the disruption if the network is going to be heavily used once it is up and running.
Whether you choose a DAS or a small cell for your personal or business networking needs, a cabling company can help you with installation, including setting up fiber optic cables and ethernet cabling.