In-Building Cellular Coverage for Higher Ed with Neutral Host Networks

Whether it’s building materials that are hard to penetrate with a cellular signal, or rural campuses that suffer from a lack of wireless towers, higher education institutions across the country typically have areas on campus that need a coverage “boost” to ensure students, guests and faculty stay connected to their wireless service. Fortunately, options to accomplish this goal have evolved recently to become quick, safe and less expensive to deploy.

In-Building Coverage Options

Augment Current Wi-Fi Network

Adding more routers to reduce poor cellular coverage is an inexpensive option for schools that don’t have a lot of public cellular traffic. But for campuses that host a large number of students, faculty and public cell users, Wi-Fi suffers from a limit to user capacity, doesn’t support voice calls well, and doesn’t provide high-level security.

Advantages: Low cost and quick installation

Disadvantages: Small propagation area, capacity limits, low security

Distributed Antenna System (DAS)

A DAS is a network of antennas that send and receive cellular signals on a carrier’s licensed frequencies, thereby improving voice and data connectivity for end-users. Cellular carriers sometimes partner with large, public venues that require additional antennas to “boost” their signal to overcome poor coverage areas. While this system works well for users of that cell service, it doesn’t help users of other cell services unless a multi-carrier system is installed, which can be very expensive to deploy. A multi-carrier system that covers a 200,000 square foot building can cost up to $2,000,000.

Advantages: Strong coverage, capacity and security

Disadvantages: High cost of installation and maintenance. Can take a year to deploy

Neutral Host Network

 A school campus networked together with a neutral host networkSince the FCC opened the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) band for commercial use, colleges and universities are now able to install a Neutral Host Network that can connect to public cellular networks and bolster those cellular signals into areas of buildings that traditionally suffer from poor coverage. Deploying a Neutral Host Network is relatively easy and cost-effective when compared to a DAS, and much more reliable and secure compared to traditional Wi-Fi.

Advantages: Strong coverage, capacity and security. Fairly quick to deploy. Less expensive than a DAS solution

Disadvantages: More expensive than augmenting an existing Wi-Fi system. Typically requires a vendor for design and installation

Neutral Host Networks Show Enormous Promise For Higher Education Institutions

 At many universities across the country, existing wireless networks struggle to consistently deliver reliable in-building connectivity and comprehensive coverage across their sprawling campuses. The issue is exacerbated by the presence of buildings constructed with materials like metal, concrete, and LEED-certified structures, all of which act as formidable barriers to cellular signals, hindering the in-building mobile experience.

 To address this gap, universities like Duke, Arizona State, Cal Poly and the University of Viriginia are currently testing Neutral Host Networks (NHN) to enhance in-building cellular coverage for students, faculty and guests. The results are proving to be extremely successful in providing cost effective wireless coverage with a system that’s rapidly deployable, and seamlessly integrates with existing infrastructure. By harnessing the power of a neutral host network, there has been a significant expansion of cellular coverage even in traditionally challenging areas where cell signals struggled to penetrate. This solution ensures cellular users will enjoy uninterrupted mobile connectivity anywhere on campus.

Are You a Viable Candidate for a Neutral Host Network?

If you answer “Yes” to one or more of these questions, you may be a good candidate for a Neutral Host Network:

  1. Are there in-building areas on campus that don’t have adequate cellular coverage?
  2. Are your users experiencing slow network speeds or frequent outages on cellular networks?
  3. Does cellular service sometimes degrade because of the large number of users trying to access their carriers at one time? (For example, football gameday)
  4. Does your institution require carrier-grade security standards such as SIM authorization, encryption, and APN configuration to integrate into your existing network?

How to choose a Neutral Host Network partner

Choosing the right NHN vendor can impact the performance, reliability, security and cost of your network. When choosing a vendor, it is important to consider the following factors:

  1. Look for a vendor with a strong track record of deploying private wireless and neutral host networks, and who has a deep understanding of networking protocols, security best practices, and radio frequency (RF) design. It is also important to ensure they have the necessary expertise to integrate existing systems with the new network, and build scalability into the design to accommodate for future growth.
  2. Choose a vendor that provides comprehensive support and maintenance services, including ongoing network monitoring and management, software upgrades, and technical support, as well as the training and documentation to help you effectively manage and maintain your network.
  3. To prevent budget overruns when evaluating a vendor’s quote, consider whether it’s inclusive of all the phases of the project. Elements of the quote may include site evaluation, RF studies, design work, equipment, installation, and ongoing support and maintenance costs.

Kajeet for Private Wireless and Neutral Host Networks

Three awards won by Kajeet Neutral Host NetworkKajeet is an industry-leader in the design and deployment of Private Wireless and Neutral Host Networks. As a provider of wireless solutions for over 20 years, Kajeet has extensive experience in evaluating each project and creating a connectivity solution that will not only work the day it’s deployed, but is designed to accommodate future needs. Kajeet has a team of experts who can work with you to assess those needs and develop a customized solution to meet your goals. They also have equipment partners to help scale any size project, ensuring you have access to the best technology and resources to support your network.

Questions? Please visit Neutral Host Network Contact and let us know!

You can also download this blog post as a complete PDF guide, How to Improve In-Building Cellular Coverage with a Neutral Host Network.