DAS vs Wi-Fi: Key Differences and Tips to Choose
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Wi-Fi and Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) are different but complementary services that facilitate calls and Internet connections. Together, they help 5.3 billion people connect to the Internet — 22.5% less than the 6.84 billion mobile phone users who engage in one form of voice call or the other.
Due to their peculiarities, businesses and organisations across various industries install them in buildings and public spaces for different reasons. As such, while looking at the DAS vs Wi-Fi comparison, this article addresses the strengths and weaknesses of both technologies regarding data transmission and calls. We’ll also explore the necessary factors to consider before opting for DAS or Wi-Fi.
What Is DAS?
A DAS is a network of interconnected small antennas placed within a building to improve mobile coverage and connectivity needs. DAS antennas are connected to a bidirectional amplifier and donor antenna using cables, splitters, taps, and couplers to ensure larger 4G/5G offloaded broadband mobile connectivity.
A DAS System/Image Source
What Is Wi-Fi?
Wireless Fidelity, commonly called Wi-Fi, is a wireless technology that uses radio waves to allow mobile devices to connect to the Internet. The technology requires a signal source, such as a Wi-Fi router, access point, or even a smartphone with Wi-Fi hotspot capacity. For devices to connect to the Internet, they simply need to join the Wi-Fi network through these signal sources, and they’re good to go.
DAS vs Wi-Fi: What Are Their Core Differences?
One of the core differences between DAS and Wi-Fi is that DAS transmits radio signals from cell towers, while Wi-Fi usually uses an Internet connection. Here are other differences between Wi-Fi and DAS:
- Purpose: DAS systems are designed to provide a stable and reliable mobile connectivity within a building or facility. In contrast, Wi-Fi allows mobile devices like computers, tablets, smartphones, etc. to access the Internet within a local network using radio signals from a wireless router or an Access Point.
- Signal Type and Data Transfer: Wi-Fi signal types use either the 2.4GHz or 5GHz frequencies. Conversely, DAS systems transmit licensed radio frequencies allocated to mobile carriers (ranging from 700MHz to 6GHz), typically covering Edge, 2G, 3G, 4G, and 5G signals. Distributed antenna systems transmit these signals through sources like off-air, on-site base transmission stations, and enterprise small cells.
What Are the Limitations of Wi-Fi?
Over the years, Wi-Fi has been the benchmark for convenient and flexible network connectivity. A study confirms that over one-third of people in the hospitality industry make decisions based on the availability of the Wi-Fi signal. However, as the demand for unhinged network connectivity grows, the limitations of Wi-Fi become more evident:
- Security: Wi-Fi is vulnerable to cyber-attacks — one of the many reasons cybersecurity experts advise against connecting to public or open Wi-Fi networks. According to a Norton study, 57% of Americans claim their personal information was stolen after they connected to a public Wi-Fi. In simple words, Wi-Fi security measures protect the system as a whole and not each individual separately. This means the users' data will be vulnerable to attacks from within the same network if they aren’t using additional measures like VPN.
- Logging: You can't just start using Wi-Fi whenever you want; you need to log in first. While it isn't a problem if you're at your own home, visiting 5th in a row shopping centre and guessing what a "unique and interesting" Wi-Fi name they've chosen can be quite frustrating.
- Reliability: Distributed Wi-Fi networks typically use unlicensed wave frequencies like 2.4GHz and 5GHz, susceptible to congestion and roadblocks like walls, structures, and interference from other devices.
- Mobile calls: With many social media apps making the rounds, Wi-Fi Calling is becoming more rampant. Unfortunately, not all carriers and devices support this feature, so you might not even be able to make important calls. But even if they do support it, every participant must have a stable Wi-Fi and Internet connection for a smooth, hitch-free Wi-Fi call. Besides, the call can be interrupted while moving around the building, as your device would need time to reconnect from one access point to another, which may take a few seconds.
How Does DAS Address Wi-Fi Limitations?
DAS systems have the upper hand over Wi-Fi in a few ways that prove helpful in addressing the limitations of the former.
In the mobile phone calls provided by DAS vs Wi-Fi Calling comparison, the former proved to be more reliable and stable. The main reason for this is obvious: DAS systems operate on licensed frequency bands, which are regulated and optimised for better mobile communication. This means that you are less likely to encounter connectivity issues or dropped calls compared to a susceptible-to-interference Wi-Fi Calling feature. But again, as has been stated above, not all devices can support Wi-Fi Calling, making DAS systems even more helpful on this matter.
Another area in which a distributed antenna system trumps its counterpart in the DAS vs managed Wi-Fi debate is security. Considering all the risks of using public Wi-Fi, the security of mobile communications over DAS is handled by the underlying mobile network protocols designed to protect the voice and data of each particular user.
When Should You Choose DAS Systems Over Wi-Fi?
Wi-Fi and DAS wireless solutions are two important players in modern-day communication systems. These are different scenarios where DAS will be a great option alongside Wi-Fi:
- Airports: Airports are filled with hundreds and thousands of people in transit. One thing is certain during their waiting period — they may make calls and browse the Internet. However, in such a crowded place, it's common to have poor mobile reception and Internet connection.
It's also noteworthy that although airport authorities provide free Internet services for travellers, not everyone is quick to use them for the obvious risk of connecting to public Wi-Fi. This is where distributed antenna systems come in to boost mobile signals, allowing people to browse the Internet securely and make important calls to family, friends, loved ones, and business associates.
- Large Office Buildings: Every establishment with fast and high data demands should have a secure and reliable Wi-Fi network for employees, customers, and other stakeholders. Mobile Internet services can be quite pricey here. As such, most companies resort to broadband ISPs for all their connectivity needs.
However, the companies must make the requisite investments to ensure that the concerned departments in those organisations, such as sales and customer service, can make uninterrupted calls to contacts, prospects, and clients. InstallingDAS systems to cover every inch of your building will ensure a missed call due to poor mobile service reception would never be a reason why your company would lose out on a crucial deal.
- Hotels: Various Reddit threads show people are intentional enough to check for mobile service when flat hunting. They are also frustrated over the lack of mobile services in some hotels, often caused by thick concrete walls and metals. While offering the guests a solid Wi-Fi connection is important, they will still be dissatisfied if they cannot make simple calls.
Due to the numerous floors and wall partitions across the hotel, there's no better place to set up a DAS wireless system than a hotel. It will eliminate the challenge posed by those thick walls, allowing customers to enjoy mobile communications without leaving the hotel building.
How Can UCtel Help You Achieve the Best DAS Services
One thing this Wi-Fi vs DAS comparison has shown is the unalloyed importance of a DAS wireless system in your home or office infrastructure. But to get started, you need a renowned distributed antenna systems provider, and UCtel is the best in this space.
Uctel has a decade-long experience providing businesses with various mobile boosting solutions to improve 3G/HSPA, 4G/LTE, and private 5G network signals. Since our launch in 2011, we’ve worked on numerous projects improving communication and network coverage of top mobile signal providers in the UK, like O2, Vodafone, Three, and EE. We guarantee that working with us is tantamount to getting premium DAS installation and ongoing support services.
Our cost-effective DAS solution covers you for the long term, so you can be sure to have an effective 5G-ready DAS system for your facility. Not convinced yet? You may learn more about how we’ve helped other businesses achieve stronger indoor mobile coverage in our case studies. Or, if you’re ready to take the leap, contact us for more information about how we can help you achieve the best DAS services you can get.
DAS and Wi-Fi are two great solutions you can have concurrently in your building, depending on your business needs. Besides, the main advantage of Wi-Fi over DAS — Internet speed — might not be as noticeable in the coming years, with the 5G network taking centre stage.