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Active vs. Passive DAS Signal Booster Installation: Cost & Benefit Analysis

Jan 29, 2017

If you’re looking to invest in a system to boost indoor wireless signal reception, a faux pas can cost hundreds of thousands dollars in needless expenses and months of unnecessary delay in installation. And in addition to that, an improper choice may not even help with all types of required signal improvement needs! Therefore, we suggest you to carefully read this cost and benefits analysis and decide for yourself which is the best route for you to take - Hybrid/Active DAS or Passive DAS signal booster?

Hybrid DAS or Active DAS Signal Boosters Passive DAS Wi-Fi & Cellular Signal Boosters
250,000 square feet. 250,000 square feet.
$375,0000 to $1,000,000 $87,500 to $150,000
Only Cell Signal Improvement Capability. Cell & WiFi Signal Improvement w/ Force 7.
Takes 6 to 18 months to install. 1 to 2 weeks to install.

Active DAS and Passive DAS Installation Design

What is DAS?

DAS can be described as "a network of small antennas which are installed throughout your complex or building to serve as repeaters for boosting cell phone signal". DAS was created because there was a very real need to resolve the problems of cell phone coverage in large buildings and commercial complexes. Today, DAS technology resolves typical issues with voice and data coverage, such as dropped calls, dead spots, in-and-out reception, and unreliable download speeds.

This is How DAS Works.

Basically with a Distributed Antenna System (which may be Passive, Active, or Hybrid), antennas are connected to a central controller, with the controller then being linked to the base station of a wireless carrier network. With an Active system, signals are transmitted via fiber cables that amplify or boost them as required. On contrary, with a Passive DAS, cell signals are passed through leaky feeder cables. A DAS can be used both outdoors (Acronym: oDAS) and indoors (Acronym: iDAS).

Know that SureCall’s Force 5 & Force 7 is a Cost-Effective "Passive" DAS Solution - Here's why.

SureCall has the perfect, cost-effective alternative to DAS. At just a fraction of the cost, our Force 5 cellular reception booster and Force 7 cellular & wi-fi reception booster performs the same functions as a distributed antenna system. In addition to having the highest 4G rating in the industry, both Force-5 & Force-7 combines cellular dual-bands and PCS with AWS and LTE frequencies for AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon to provide a comprehensive 2G, 3G, 4G LTE Plus and Advanced voice and data reception solution. Since the introduction of SureCall Force5 booster in 2002, SureCall has completed thousands of successful installations for large corporations in both the United States and Canada. Check out the Sierra Nevada Brewery to see how easily they work!

SureCall's flagship line of cell phone signal boosters are capable of boosting both data and voice reception anywhere. You will receive an industry-exclusive 3-year warranty in addition to a 60-day money-back guarantee, proving that we stand behind the quality of our products and our service. Our clients have rewarded us with the lowest return rate in the market.

If you have a large building and you're looking for an immediate solution to cellular transmission problems, then you need a SureCall cell-phone signal booster from Our Force5 cellular reception booster is an affordable alternative to any situation that may benefit from a DAS application.

Why not provide your location details and get a prompt quote from us today, and you can save while enjoying a professional installation by certified Surecall installers. We guarantee uninterrupted data and voice coverage with SureCall's smart and efficient alternative to Active DAS signal boosters.

A Cheaper Alternative to Many DAS Installations Is "Passive DAS".

In fact, eight-out-of-ten DAS installations can be achieved with Passive DAS.

It is not that long ago that mobile technology was considered a work distraction, but today we have an increasing mobile and remote workforce, forcing many companies to support a variety of mobile devices as an important part of their corporate mobile strategy. This includes both company issued devices and employees' own devices, which very often are more current than IT-issued devices. Thus, companies are reaping the benefits of the newest and most up-to-date features and upgrades. Of course, with this up-to-date technology comes the need for reliable and consistent cellular signals and improved data downloads. The problem remains that, for a variety of reasons, it is often difficult to achieve a clear and consistent cellular reception within some buildings. Some of these factors include the distance to the nearest cell tower, construction materials (which include concrete, cement, brick, metal, etc.), and low-emissivity, energy-efficient glass windows.

Both Passive & Active DAS Signal Boosters Equally Thwart Factors That Affect Indoor Reception.

Active & Passive DAS signal booster counteracts distance from cell phone towers:

DAS signal booster counteracts distance from cell phone towers

Active & Passive DAS signal booster counteracts obstructions caused by building materials:

DAS signal booster counteracts obstructions caused by building materials.

Many business owners are looking to Distributed Antenna Systems to ensure reliable cellular service inside their buildings.  These systems are typically available in two main types: Passive and Active (three total types if you consider "Hybrid" which is very similar to "Active" - Details down below). 

Passive DAS - Details.

Passive Distributed Antenna System Signal Booster

In the situation where a passive DAS is installed, an outside antenna is connected to a cellular signal booster, also known as a repeater or bi-directional amplifier. Then, using coaxial cables and splitters, this is then connected to distributed antennas around the building. There's no amplification between the booster and distributed antennas (unlike Active DAS), which gives it it's name - Passive Distributed Antenna System.

With Passive DAS, signal boosters support multiple carrier frequencies. However, signals from distributed antennas which are located further away from the signal booster will have a lower strength than signals from closer antennas. Therefore, cellular signal booster designs are generally used to cover smaller areas – up to 250,000 ft.².

Active DAS - Details.

On other hand, Active DAS uses amplifiers at the distributed antenna locations, with signals being transported from the repeater to the distributed antenna locations by means of fiber or CAT-5/6e cabling, or coaxial cable. The signal from the repeater is increased by amplifiers, thus providing a stronger signal to the wireless units. Amplifiers also increase signals from the wireless units, thus providing a stronger outgoing signal. Certainly, Active DAS will probably cover larger areas, but this achievement comes at greater installation complexity and significantly higher costs.

Active DAS versus Passive DAS Installation Diagram/ Sketch/ Graph

Hybrid DAS - Simply a different version of Active DAS.

Hybrid DAS signal booster works almost like the active distributed antenna system. It uses some fiber for distribution of signal, but relies mostly on passive coax cable for most of its cellular signal distribution system. Hybrid systems may be a solution for some medium-sized spaces or unusual signal reception problems. Multiple passive systems can be linked by fiber cable to a remote amplifier unit.

Since it is very similar to Active DAS type set-up, a hybrid booster system also has the same drawbacks. For example, it is still extremely expensive per square foot of boosted coverage and it still needs involvement of all cellular carriers and approval from each of them separately.

Eight out of ten Hybrid or Active DAS jobs that are lost due to their expense could be saved by using Passive DAS, simply because the cost of a cellular signal system is just a fraction of the cost when compared to Active DAS (see comparison chart at the top of this blog post). Then, after adding an expense to the lengthy installation process, many organizations choose not to proceed with an installation of their Active DAS.

CPRI as the new interface for Active and Hybrid DAS.

It is worth mentioning about CPRI that stands for Common Public Radio Interface. To reduce time consumption and cost to establish connectivity between a service provider's celluar tower and a DAS head-end, CPRI interface is now used for new installations. CPRI allows the base unit and the main DAS hub to be connected using a digital optical link. This helps CPRI to bypass RF processing needed and eliminate few equipment requirements. CPRI also helps with wireless delivery from multiple cellular bands and protocols including 2G, 3G and 4G. Companies that currently back the CPRI for Hybrd and Active DAS models include Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, Huawei, NEC, and Nokia Siemens Networks. Essentially, CPRI is simply a feature of Hybrid and Active DAS signal boosters which intrinsically are more expensive and more time consuming to install - See the boosted coverage area, installation cost, and installation time comparison chart of Active & Passive signal boosters at the top.

The Choice is Yours!

If you need to reliably cover up to 250,000 ft.² and support 100 simultaneous callers, or less, then a cellular signal booster system is most likely the best solution for you. One of the greatest advantages of installing a cellular signal booster is the cost: You will find that an Active DAS can be up to six times more in cost! Plus, with signal boosters the installation and maintenance costs are much less, simply because the setup is easier and there are no remote amplifiers or hubs to install or maintain.

According to the 2012 Commercial Building Energy Consumption survey conducted by the US Energy Administration, 88% of today’s commercial buildings are 25,000 ft.² or less in size. This means that, for the vast majority of buildings in use, Passive DAS with cellular signal boosters are a much more economical solution, simply because their maximum threshold is closer to 250,000 ft.²

Choosing a Passive DAS for Your Building.

Consider the following when selecting a Passive DAS with cellular signal boosters for your application:

  • How many square feet do you need the system to cover? Remember that you can add additional boosters to cover larger areas.
  • Many signal boosters support multiple carriers; However, not all of them do. Therefore, consider compatibility with carriers and supported services that your staff, customers, and tenants are using. Make sure the booster system you select supports 4G, if it is required.
  • Consider the outdoor signal strength. If you have a strong outdoor signal, you will be able to cover a larger area.

Interesting Fact:

Did you know that NASA’s original space flight Center, known as the Goddard Space Flight Center, contacted SureCall when they were unable to get a strong enough signal? That is right! They didn’t call Houston - they called SureCall! SureCall is the leading manufacturer of Passive D.A.S. cellular signal boosters, and were able to implement a Passive DAS signal boosting system solution which immediately resolved USA National Aeronautics and Space Administration's cellular and 4G data problems:)

A faux pas can cost needless expenses, delayed installation, incomplete solution, so please heed above research we have put together for you detailing Active versus Passive DAS Signal Booster Installation. An informed decision is always the best decision.

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  • Wow! There is a big difference between active and passive DAS in terms of cost. The upside is that there is also a big difference in how much of a difference active DAS makes compared to passive. I guess this explains just how important reliable cell phone signals are to businesses.

    Kent Mobley on
  • Call me weird, but I enjoy learning about technology, particularly things dealing with communication systems. I’ve been in buildings (usually basements) and lamented the lack of cell phone coverage. Based on what I’ve been reading here about active distributed antenna systems (das) and passive distributed antenna systems, it is more than possible to get good coverage in places like stadiums, big buildings, factories, etc. Here, it’s a question of whether active das components are the best fit for you or passive das components. Regardless of where you stand on passive das vs. active das, there’s no doubt these systems can fix the dead zones plaguing a stadium, building, etc.

    Isaac Rothman on
  • I think I finally understand the differences between active DAS systems and passive DAS systems. It seems like a significant difference with active using fiber cables and passive using regular cables. Sounds like active DAS was the way to go when looking to increase the cell phone signals in a building. Now, of course, there’s even more choices as the blog mentions adding a cell phone booster to complement the passive DA, perhaps using that for when you want to increase your cell phone signals.

    Dante Offerman on
  • Can you imagine someone in a medium size office trying to find a way how to improve cell phone signal strength, but they have no idea what technology is out there and what pitfalls (mainly money pits) that await the unwary? This article was an eye-opener for me and while I don’t run a medium or large office, I know people who do. I will let them know about some of these issues and point them this way so they don’t drop a mint on something that isn’t right for them. Good resource you have here.

    Peter Sanborn on

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