How to Plan for 5G Installation in Your Building

by | Nov 29, 2022 | DAS/5G


The future is here: with 5G DAS infrastructure, you can take your in-building network coverage to new heights. 

Property owners throughout the Bay Area are choosing 5G because of its huge potential to revamp their network’s speed, capacity, coverage and overall connectivity. For large buildings such as offices, hotels, hospitals, shopping malls, schools, residential high-rises and more, 5G DAS infrastructure can give your occupants a reliable, blazing-fast network experience. 

As you plan to install 5G in your building in San Francisco, it’s essential that you understand how 5G DAS works and what your infrastructure options are. To give you a 360-degree vision into 5G, our experts at WBE have put together this guide to help you plan 5G installation according to your specific needs. 

Need a refresher on DAS technology? Check out our ultimate guide to DAS before getting into the details of 5G below. 


Key Takeaways for Planning 5G Installation

  • In-building 5G network coverage faces key challenges, such as building materials, population density, dead zones and the lower penetration of 5G frequencies. This makes DAS deployment essential to distribute the signal throughout the building. 
  • DAS technology works by capturing a signal and supplying it across your building’s spaces, improving your network’s speed, coverage and capacity indoors. 
  • 5G DAS installation is important for public safety, as it may power your building’s Emergency Responder Radio Communications Systems (ERRCS).
  • You have two options for 5G signal sources, small cells or off-air. Small cells typically provide the best performance and capacity, but may be more expensive than off-air sources.
  • 5G comes in different frequencies, but mid-band is usually the best and most cost-effective option for buildings, as it offers the right balance of coverage and capacity. 
  • As you plan 5G installation, you’ll need to take stock of your current network infrastructure and determine whether it’s possible to upgrade to 5G without completely new installations.
  • With your 5G solutions provider, you should create a 5G DAS roadmap to keep your network future-proof as the technology evolves. 
  • Our expert WBE team is ready to plan your 5G network, so it meets your most ambitious business goals and requirements. 


Why DAS Technology Is Essential to In-Building 5G Coverage

Today, 80% of network voice and data usage happens indoors. Yet, property owners looking to provide essential in-building coverage face unique challenges such as:

  • Building materials that interfere with signals, including concrete, metal and low-E glass. 
  • A high population density, which increases capacity and bandwidth requirements.
  • Isolated or dead zone areas, such as elevators, stairwells or basements, which require special consideration.
  • The higher frequency of 5G, which can weaken signal penetration in a building. 

Unfortunately, if you don’t address these concerns, your slow or weak network signals will lead to frustrated occupants, which can negatively impact your business. For these reasons, you need to utilize DAS infrastructure in order to distribute the signal throughout a building and maintain speed, coverage and capacity indoors. DAS does just that: this type of infrastructure captures a signal and supplies it across a specific space. 

What’s more, DAS is the most comprehensive option for multi-carrier and multi-frequency environments, where users may be connecting to the network on a variety of different data plans and devices. 


The Importance of Understanding the Difference of 5G DAS and ERRCS

In addition, setting up 5G for your building is crucial for safety. Depending on your building’s size and code, you may be obligated to have an Emergency Responder Radio Communications Systems (ERRCS).

ERRCS are designed to ensure uninterrupted connectivity during a crisis situation. With it, occupants of the building can call 9-11 without interruption and first responders can utilize two-way communications (such as radio) to coordinate their emergency efforts. 

Installing a ERRCS goes hand-in-hand with 5G DAS set-up, as signals must remain strong regardless of high demands on the network or where occupants are located within the building (even traditional “dead zones” such as elevators).


Understanding Your 5G DAS Infrastructure Needs

Now that you have a good sense of why you need 5G DAS for your building, let’s take a closer look at your infrastructure needs. 

Every building has different user goals and needs, which is why you should work with an expert 5G partner in order to expertly define your infrastructure. In turn, the scope of your 5G network will also impact your installation requirements, coverage/capacity limitations, carrier contracts and final budget.

Here are three of the most important 5G infrastructure considerations to understand from the get-go.

1. 5G Signal Sources

Overall, your specific DAS set-up will vary according to the signal source and the distribution system. (Learn more about DAS and these terms in our guide here.) Choosing the right signal source is particularly important for your 5G set-up. Typically, you can choose from two sources for 5G: small cells or off-air sources. 

5G Small Cells

Also called femtocells, these nodes connect to a carrier’s network through a Femto gateway, which then relays the signal to DAS. Small cells provide a high-quality signal across a small area, but they can be scaled up by creating a network of them. Overall, small cells are an ideal source for 5G because they’re not too intensive to install and provide the best performance. 

Off-Air Sources

Another option is for 5G to capture a signal from a local cellular tower via a rooftop donor antenna. While this option is very affordable and easy to install, the quality of the signal will depend on the antenna and the tower. Off-air sources may be the right choice for small or medium-sized buildings, especially if the property owner has a limited budget and doesn’t require huge capacity needs.

2. 5G Frequencies

As you plan for 5G installation, you should also think about the frequency range for your network. 5G comes in three different frequencies: low-, mid- and high-band. Generally speaking, mid-band 5G is the ideal option for most buildings, as it’s cost-effective and offers the best combination of coverage and capacity. 

That said, you should work with your 5G expert to ensure mid-band is the right frequency for your property’s specific needs. In addition, you’ll want to discuss the design and density of your network, as higher frequencies of 5G will require more access points compared to 4G. 

3. 5G in the Future

Finally, 5G technology is constantly evolving, which is why you should work closely with your provider in order to ensure your solution is future-proof. If you currently have DAS deployments, it may be possible to upgrade them for 5G without completely new installations. However, this set-up may not be the best to scale for future needs. 

Ideally, your 5G installation today should keep in mind your building’s needs tomorrow regarding coverage, capacity and carrier contracts. In addition, it’s possible that 5G technology will change in certain ways (such as new spectrums) that necessitate updating your installation for long-term demands. 


Main Steps for the 5G DAS Installation Process

The 5G installation process will be customized according to your specific network solution, but will almost always follow these general steps. Here’s what to expect during the 5G installation planning process.

1. Audit Your Network’s Current Infrastructure 

To get started, you’ll need to take stock of your current network infrastructure and determine whether it’s possible to upgrade to 5G without building new installations. This will depend largely on your existing infrastructure and network goals, as sometimes it’s best to invest in new installations that can be scaled in the future.

During this audit stage, it’s common for your provider to perform certain tests and create documentation, including in-building transmitter tests, existing installation diagrams and safety documentation.  

2. Set Your Building’s 5G Goals

Next, you’ll want to discuss your network goals in-depth with your solutions partner to ensure that the 5G installation meets your business KPIs. For example, what does your building require in terms of speed, capacity and coverage? 

Your goals will be determinative for deciding 5G signal sources, frequencies and the overall set-up for your building. In this stage, your 5G partner will put together a scope of work that includes future potential scaling. 

3. Work With an Expert 5G Partner to Define a Custom Solution

At this point, your expert 5G partner will start defining your customized solution according to your building’s existing infrastructure and business goals. 

To pinpoint your personalized solution, your expert partner will likely create plans to showcase how 5G DAS will be installed in your building, such as design diagrams, heat maps, material selection lists, hotspot identification, multi-dimensional value maps and more.

4. Implement, Test and Optimize

Now it’s time to implement your 5G and DAS deployments. This entails infrastructure updates, system installations, hardware changes, carrier contract negotiation and more. Once the solution is fully integrated, it’s also important to test and optimize the network using real data. 

Some post-build tests that your 5G partner will perform include: fiber tests, PIM tests, coax cable reports, DAS system health reports, baseline noise reports and real-time remote monitoring. 

5. Create a 5G Roadmap for the Future

Finally, you should check with your partner about future 5G updates. The scope of work should include long-term goals, such as milestones for the next 1.5 years, 3 years and 5 years. This should include not just maintenance tasks, but also roll-outs of new technologies as relevant. 


Future-Proof Your In-Building 5G Coverage With WBE

Our expert team at WBE has 20+ years of experience in DAS installation and can take the guesswork out of defining and deploying the best 5G solution for your building. 

At WBE, we’ll help prepare your business for the future by creating an end-to-end custom 5G installation plan tailored to your building’s current infrastructure, network goals, safety needs and budget limitations. Reach out to our experts today to plan five-star 5G installation for your property in the Bay Area. 


5G Installation FAQs

What’s the Difference Between 5G and 4G?

5G utilizes higher frequencies and new technologies (such as Massive MIMO) to bring exciting possibilities to the network user experience. Overall, 5G is expected to be 100x faster than 4G, as well as enhance capacity, latency, multi-device connectivity, use flexibility and more.  

Why Is DAS So Important for Indoor 5G?

In-building coverage can be challenging due to building materials, population density, dead zones and the lower penetration of 5G frequencies. For this reason, DAS deployment is essential to distribute the signal throughout the building without loss of speed and capacity.  

What’s Required to Build a 5G Network?

Your building’s 5G installation requirements will depend on your existing system and network goals, but often requires infrastructure updates, new installations, hardware changes, carrier contract negotiation and more. You should get in touch with an expert 5G partner like WBE to get a customized solution that’s specific to your building’s needs.