AT&T: DAS is a Go in Palo Alto

September 22, 2011

Remember our series of stories on AT&T’s plans to build a Distributed Antenna System (DAS) network to beef up cell coverage in the Silicon Valley town of Palo Alto? According to Ma Bell’s chief technology officer John Donovan, that plan has recently received approval from the city council, which means that AT&T will likely start putting up some of the small antennas perhaps as early as in a month or so.

“We’ve got a bunch of designs [for antenna deployment] to finalize, but construction [of the network] should start early next month,” said Donovan, when we asked him about the DAS project when he was in town last week for the opening of AT&T’s Foundry innovation center in Palo Alto. Donovan, who is overseeing a big strategic move toward more DAS deployments by AT&T this year, lauded his team for cutting through red tape and getting the Palo Alto plan from idea to reality in less than 2 years.

If you are unfamiliar with DAS it may be because it has traditionally been used to improve cell signals inside buildings — say large office buildings or big sheltered spaces like hotels, convention centers or casinos — where people want to use their mobile devices but may be hindered by walls and ceilings. But with some new outside antenna designs (like AT&T’s test model that we photographed in San Mateo earlier this year) providers like AT&T are looking into building outdoor DAS networks to supplement areas where cell coverage is poor, like the leafy residential neighborhoods of Palo Alto.

AT&T’s DAS Antenna: Caught In the Wild

May 3, 2011

You need to be sufficiently geeky and somewhat of a wireless nerd to know an outdoor DAS (distributed antenna system) antenna when you see one. But we were pretty sure that we had seen one of the antennas AT&T is proposing to use in Palo Alto, sitting atop a utility pole here in Sidecut Reports’ home turf of San Mateo. A call to AT&T’s local PR folks confirmed the DAS device, and they were nice enough to let us in to the local AT&T work yard (where the trucks roll from) to take some pictures of the experimental DAS antenna “in the wild.”

Outdoor DAS antenna, AT&T work yard, San Mateo, Calif. Credit: Sidecut Reports.

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AT&T’s Palo Alto Wireless Improvements Get Rocky Reception

April 6, 2011

Despite the friendly face it is putting on its strategy to beef up wireless reception in Palo Alto, AT&T is facing some rough local resistance to its implementation ideas from citizens of the cultural center of Silicon Valley.

Though AT&T has earned city approval to install a new regular cellular antenna as well as some new antennas to support a public Wi-Fi hotspot zone, its actions have riled some residents including one longtime Internet technologist who has threatened to cut off the city government’s free Internet access due to his opposition to the cell-tower approval process. There was also heated debate about the Wi-Fi hotspot plan, which eventually won city approval in part because of AT&T’s pledge to install the gear without entering the building the antennas will be mounted on.

So far there has been no city decision on a wider-reaching AT&T plan to install numerous smaller cellular antennas in a technology deployment known as Outdoor Distributed Antenna System (ODAS), which like the other ideas is aimed chiefly at improving AT&T’s cellular reception in the California city that is home to a wide range of Silicon Valley leaders and influencers, and sits next door to Stanford University. The Palo Alto deployment is part of a wide-ranging AT&T strategy to increase the number of DAS deployments nationwide, but like the other ideas it is running into some local opposition.

While the smaller DAS antennas (which can be mounted on existing structures like power poles) might seem more aesthetically acceptable, several residents feared that by agreeing to allow AT&T to install the antennas the city could be jeopardizing a long-standing plan to bury utility lines and eliminate overhead poles. According to one news report, the Palo Alto city council may “step back and discuss a larger, citywide approach” to cellular implementation plans, based on the contentious nature of some recent applications like AT&T’s.