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Using DAS to Solve Capacity and Connectivity Challenges

Using DAS to Solve Capacity and Connectivity Challenges

By Peter Tardy, PE, Director of Telecommunications 

Whether sitting in the corner end zone or the corner bar, encountering slow, interrupted, or complete loss of internet service is a major inconvenience. Ten years ago, it may have been tolerable. In 2024, there is no excuse. 

“The days of people holding up their phones during a concert or a game to find cell service should be a thing of the past,” said Peter Tardy, PE, Director of Telecommunications at French & Parrello Associates (FPA), a full-service engineering and consulting firm based in Wall, NJ. “It’s the same with having slow service. It’s just not necessary. 

“There is no reason for service to slow down because too many people are simultaneously accessing the area’s cellular service,” continued Mr. Tardy. “These are issues that we have encountered, solved, and currently have solutions to address.” 

The solution Mr. Tardy referenced is a Distributed Antenna System, or DAS. This common connectivity infrastructure is used to efficiently disseminate wireless capacity and reception in sometimes complex interior facilities. Both large and small spaces can benefit from these supplementary, in-building networks. 

A DAS is multiple antennas connected in a network to send and receive cellular signals, which improves connectivity for end-users. There are two main reasons to implement a DAS – to improve coverage and increase capacity. Related to coverage, if the closest cell tower is physically far away, or if particular building materials block the cellular signal, a DAS is required. As it pertains to capacity, certain locations demand more cellular data usage, such as a Taylor Swift concert or a March Madness game. In either scenario, if the venue relied on a standard cell tower near the site to provide coverage to all users, the tower and network would quickly become overwhelmed and slow.

“It allows for increased cellular device coverage throughout a facility. It prevents dropped calls, improves internet connectivity, and allows many people to use their devices at the same time,” Mr. Tardy said. “What a lot of people encounter, for example, at a concert is as more fans enter the venue and start taking pictures or live streaming or posting to social media, the service gets worse for everyone. We have also seen a particular uptick in this because of the movement to digital ticketing and concessions. Since no one is using paper tickets or cash anymore, more people are accessing the digital data available.” 

FPA has developed DAS solutions for T-Mobile, Crown Castle, and Verizon Wireless, among others. These projects have spanned a variety of markets, including higher education, sports and recreation, healthcare, malls, marinas, and traditional office buildings. 

Arthur Ashe Stadium in Queens, NY, the host of the US Open in Men’s and Women’s Tennis, has a capacity of more than 22,000 spectators. FPA provided telecommunications engineering and design services for the installation and design of a DAS consisting of 47 antennas within the stadium. The design required multiple structural mounts to support the antennas throughout the stadium while considering the existing architectural aesthetics. FPA designed, engineered, and provided conduit/cable mounting and routing specifications, as well as structural engineering services.

At MetLife Stadium, located in East Rutherford, NJ, and home to the NFL’s New York Giants and Jets, FPA provided Turnkey Wireless with telecommunications engineering and design services during the DAS installation that featured 75 Wifi antennas and 142 radio units. FPA supported the construction of a 2,035-SF headend/data hub to support the stadium’s DAS. The project included three rows of 32 closed cabinets and four rows of 38 open telecommunications equipment racks. The project also included seven DC plants with a rooftop 300 KW backup generator, and two HVAC units each with a 60-ton cooling capacity. 

At Rutgers University’s SHI Stadium, located in Piscataway, NJ, which holds more than 52,000 spectators for Big 10 football games, FPA provided telecommunications engineering and design services for the construction of a 2,400-SF headend/data hub to support 314 Wifi antennas installed throughout the stadium. The project included a DC plant with a 500 KW backup generator and four AC units, each with a 30-ton cooling capacity.

“The major sporting venues and stadiums are particularly interesting,” Mr. Tardy said. “MetLife Stadium is a venue that will host the final match of the 2026 World Cup. That’s a historic, global event that will have a massive crowd inside the stadium, as well as outside, all looking to memorialize the experience. These fans will be sharing in real-time through social media, through the internet, and it will all occur on cell phones. This is not the time to have bogged down service.” 

DAS are also scalable, providing coverage and capacity benefits across a variety of markets. 

“In larger buildings and offices that have campuses, we have seen DAS used to improve emergency responses,” Mr. Tardy said. “Hospitals, research labs, and health care facilities have all seen an increase in DAS, but so too have malls, hotels, and other large multi-tenant, multi-use buildings.” 

In addition to major sporting complexes, Mr. Tardy cited half a dozen malls where FPA has provided DAS solutions, including the Staten Island Mall, which has more than 12 million shoppers each year visiting over 200 stores spread throughout 1.25 million SF of retail space.

FPA’s relationships formed during decades of serving telecommunications clients have provided added value. “Having served virtually all carriers has proven a huge differentiator. We have been able to use these connections for coordination, issue resolution, and to expedite decisions,” Mr. Tardy said. “In addition, being able to provide our clients with ancillary services has proven critical for cost and time savings. FPA’s full-service offerings, from structural and MEP services to site/civil and environmental services, allows the firm to provide a one-stop shop for our clients.”

As Director of FPA’s Telecommunications Division, Mr. Tardy is responsible for overseeing all aspects of the business operations. He has more than 25 years of experience providing a full range of engineering services (structural, civil, surveying, geotechnical, environmental, mechanical/electrical, and construction phase services) as related to the design, approval, and construction of telecommunication facilities..

French & Parrello Associates (FPA) is a full-service engineering and consulting firm that has partnered with public and private clients to address the challenges of critical infrastructure, diverse buildings, and geotechnical and environmental demands since 1974. Nationally and locally ranked among Engineering News Record’s Top Firms, FPA has more than 200 professionals strategically located throughout eight offices on the East Coast.