Cel-Fi QUATRA drives cellular coverage underground in commercial parking garage
A skyscraper that features a 400,000 ft2 parking garage with 850 spaces and a mechanical room. Because it is underground and made of concrete and steel, the office tenants were not able to continue, initiate, or receive calls.
Cel-Fi QUATRA active DAS hybrid solution
• A speedy installation at half the cost
• A welcome surprise that all 3 parking levels got full cellular coverage
Fountain Place is an architectural landmark in Dallas. The iconic skyscraper, which features 1.2 million square feet of office space, is surrounded by nearly 200 fountains and gardens that attract locals and visitors alike. The acclaimed commercial building, which has been standing since 1986, is owned by Goddard Investment Group.
Goddard Investment Group had initially decided to go with a traditional active distributed antenna system (DAS) to bring the outdoor signal underground. However, the active DAS solution proved to be a bigger roadblock than the problem itself: after three years, the system was still not built, and would only provide coverage for two carriers.
Because Mullenix was in need of a cost-effective solution without further delays, he changed gears and called Bob Merola, Chief Technology Officer at Wytec International, a wireless integrator based in San Antonio, Texas, and asked if he could do something.
“I told him we could. We recommended Cel-Fi QUATRA active DAS hybrid because it offers all the benefits of an active DAS, but at a much more attractive price point,” says Merola. “It also delivers 1000 times the signal gain of a BDA passive DAS (booster) and can provide coverage for all four major carriers. QUATRA is simply a far superior technology to other solutions available today for the middleprise space.” While the original active DAS system provided coverage for only two carriers, Merola felt coverage for all four major carriers was important. He explains, “At night, if someone were to trip and fall and get hurt, they need to be able to call somebody. With no cell service, you can’t call somebody for help. There were emergency phones located throughout the space, but if you can’t walk, you can’t get to the phone. You need to have access to your cellular, so it’s a safety thing. They needed to have this to make sure that their tenants were safe going to and from their vehicles.”
Although price was a driving factor for Mullenix, the ability to install a solution without involving the carriers was equally as attractive because it could be deployed much faster. Wytec could have Cel-Fi QUATRA installed and providing coverage on all four major carrier networks in less than two months.
To begin, Merola and his team determined the configuration of the Cel-Fi QUATRA using iBwave. “We were able to save them more than half of what they were going to spend on the active DAS solution,” he says. “But we actually increased to all four carriers, rather than just two that were planned with the active DAS, and we installed everything in conduit, so in a straight comparison, it was a lot less than half.”
Wytec mounted four donor antennas outside on the elevator shaft of a 10-story above-ground parking structure adjacent to Fountain Place. The team then ran the cables in conduit down into the basement, where the mechanical room was located. Twelve NUs (Network Units that are the headend units of the QUATRA system) were placed in two racks in the underground mechanical room. Utilizing ethernet cable and cable extenders, 44 CUs (Coverage Units that are the remote units that broadcast the signal) were distributed throughout the garage’s three floors.
“Normally, the NUs are mounted on a wall or in a closet,” explains Merola. “By putting them in the mechanical room, we could mount an equipment rack, cable management, and ladder tray, so the installation was, to me, second to none.”
The Wytec team also put all of the CUs in NEMA-certified enclosures to protect them from being damaged by water from pressure washers that are used when the garage was cleaned. “We wanted to make sure there wouldn’t be any damage to the CUs,” says Merola. “We had to retrofit the boxes a bit to accommodate the adapters to mount the equipment, but it wasn’t difficult.” The entire project took 61 days to complete, from signing the agreement to complete installation.
Using the intuitive Cel-Fi WAVE remote monitoring and management platform, Wytec was able to commission and monitor the system within eight hours, versus the several days usually required to accomplish the same thing with a traditional DAS solution.
“On projects like this, it’s more typical to see people hauling big cables and heavy equipment around. Your headends are usually the size of a data center,” says Merola. “With Cel-Fi QUATRA everything is compact. It fits very well into a small closet. The antennas are small. The ethernet cabling is small and faster to install. Overall, QUATRA is a great fit from a budgetary, functionality, and technology perspective.”
All three levels of the below-ground parking garage at Fountain Place now receive reliable, high-quality cellular signal. Mullenix says, “It went from not being able to hold a phone call to being able to make a phone call. We went from having nothing to having a signal.”
- Based in San Antonio, Texas
- 15 employees and growing
- Delivers new, fast, and reliable wireless products and services with carrier-grade quality and stability
- Solutions and services provided to companies of all sizes, offering features not found in fiber optics
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