August 5, 2016
As service providers and venue owners race to deploy solutions in a way that provides added value to consumers, DAS and small cell installations have skyrocketed. Analyst firm IHS Infonetics reported in May that the DAS market alone grew 11% from 2013 to 2014, reaching $2.2 billion. Similarly, research firm Markets and Markets estimates the global small cell market will be worth $3.92 billion by 2020.
One reason for the need for DAS and small cells is the fact that an estimated 80% of mobile usage is done by consumers when they are in their offices, shopping at malls or sitting in an arena or similar venue. Previous blog posts have discussed the challenges – most notably interference – associated with this and how to overcome them when installing DAS and small cells.
A key thing to remember about DAS (figure 1) is that the need for documentation of antenna systems is increasing. A typical tower-based antenna system may require 50-150 measurements, traces, and photos to show that the installation meets quality standards. DAS may require 1,000-15,000 traces, photos, and other deliverables to show that the installation meets performance standards. Each of these deliverables needs to be inspected, renamed, and perhaps have the markers and limit lines set and judged.
That kind of explosive growth and documentation requirement places a tremendous burden on the individuals responsible for installing and maintaining DAS. We have spent many a post explaining how the proper test solutions can help these field professionals locate and eliminate interference. One other tool that is invaluable when ensuring optimum network operation is knowledge. Given the pace at which the market is evolving, one way to acquire that valuable asset known as “smarts” is through educational courses.
Training is Key
Proper training can do more than help the technicians doing the work. Service providers are constantly looking for methods to reduce operational expense while maintaining KPIs. A well-trained workforce makes for more efficient small cell and DAS installations that are completed correctly the first time to avoid expensive reworking. Because of all the potential interference sources associated with these deployments, this should not be underestimated. Properly trained and certified technicians will help expedite the provisioning of services that can make or break customer retention, as well.
Another factor as to why training is becoming imperative is that the DAS and small cell segments lack standardization. Installers work in a very convoluted industry with very few authorities that agree on best practices.
What to look for in DAS Training
The question of if training is necessary has an obvious answer. A more difficult query is what makes a DAS training course effective. Here are some key attributes to look for.
- Instructors – Remember back in high school when there was that one teacher who knew how to bring out the best in you? Instructors can do the same thing when it comes to training. Make sure the instructor is well-versed on the technologies and is on the cutting-edge of telecom workforce needs.
- Hands-on – You can only learn so much from reading and listening so make sure the course you take is more than 50% hands-on. Time needs to be dedicated to constructing and testing simulated DAS branches. Ask if attendees make measurements, interpret and analyze information to find problems and correct them, and develop a sound strategy for consistent documentation and efficient, effective workflow.
- Proper Equipment – Selecting a course that puts industry leading solutions in your hands so you can conduct measurements to verify what you learn is most effective. Anritsu handheld instruments, such as the Site Master™ and PIM Master™ analyzers, as well as the ACCESS Master OTDR are specified into many scopes of work published by operators for a project.
- Curriculum – Many programs sponsored by DAS manufacturers focus on specific hardware, limiting what is taught and learned. Make sure you select training courses that have an emphasis on DAS theory, so you learn how a system works, and can recognize components, their functions and performance ranges. You should also learn correct cleaning procedures, as well as how to test and troubleshoot components and DAS assemblies and sub-assemblies for return loss, insertion loss and PIM. If you are focused on active DAS, you need to ensure that the training is anchored in fiber optics. Better courses will have exercises on testing fiber and system components, splicing fiber and include state-of-the-art simulation of a fiber system.
- Certfication – The course that is taken should conclude with a comprehensive examination that tests how well attendees comprehended the subject matter. Upon passing, attendees should receive a certificate that verifies knowledge and expertise so operators are sure they are hiring the best.
Anritsu offers the gold standard in certification training for the wireless industry, including DAS courses. You can learn more and register by visiting Anritsu Training and Education.