Distributed Antenna System

Passive vs Active vs Hybrid, Installation, and Recommendations


Cellular is the 4th Utility

Reliable in-building cellular reception is more than about convenience. It’s a necessity. Disruption to calls, texts, mobile data, and essential applications affects workflow, critical information, and professional reliability

WiFi is Not Enough

While broadband internet is the prevalent go-to technology for businesses, it has its limitations, especially with the influx of wireless users, changes in wireless device habits, and the evolution of cellular technology.

Lack of Personal Security

Lack of
Personal Security

While broadband internet is the prevalent go-to technology for businesses, it has its limitations, especially with the influx of wireless users, changes in wireless device habits, and the evolution of cellular technology.



In high-traffic settings WiFi can become overloaded, leading to slow download and upload speeds.

With a lack of personal security and slower speeds, many businesses are opting to use cellular network connectivity to assist, complement, or even supplant their WiFi. And with the promise of 5G and aggressive carrier competition to keep unlimited data plans at low prices, there’s mounting evidence that supports a cord-cutting generational shift.

That's Where a DAS System Comes into Play

Increases Indoor Cellular Coverage

Increases Indoor Cellular Coverage

Improves Voice Calls

Improves Voice Calls

Enhances Data Speeds

Enhances Data Speeds

Offload WiFi Congestion

Offload WiFi Congestion

What is a Distributed Antenna System (DAS)?

DAS is a network of antennas that improve cellular across a variety of frequencies for better coverage and more reliable service. There are two main types of DAS: iDAS (indoors) and oDAS (outdoors). The vast majority of DAS installations are in-building.

There are two main parts to an in-building DAS system:

1) The Signal Source

DAS systems do not generate signal. They receive signals one of three ways: off-air from cell towers, via on-site base transceiver stations, or through small cells.

2) A Distribution System

Received signal needs to be distributed somehow. Main components include a central processing unit, cables, and antennas. There are three common distribution methods: Passive DAS, Active DAS, and Hybrid DAS.

DAS System Diagram

DAS Components

Signal Source

Signal Source

Where DAS systems receive signals from.

  • Off-Air: Signal available over the air generated by cell towers in the area. A donor antenna is used to capture off-air signals. It’s the most common signal source for DAS.
  • On-Site Base Transceiver Station (BTS): Equipment that connects directly to the carrier’s core network. Simulates having a cell tower inside the building. Requires carrier approvals.
  • Small Cell: Deliver reliable cell signal through an internet backhaul. This is the latest DAS signal source.
DAS Headend

DAS Headend

Connects to signal source and conditions incoming and outgoing signals. Headend will vary depending on distribution system.

  • Cellular Amplifier: Boosts off-air cellular signals. Mainly used with Passive and Hybrid DAS setups.
  • Master Unit: Converts signals from signal source to digital for stronger transmission. Commonly used with Active and Hybrid setups.


Transmit signals.
There are three types of cables that can be used with DAS:

  • Coaxial Cable
  • Ethernet Cable
  • Fiber Optic Cable


Broadcast cellular signal where it matters.
There are two types:

  • Dome Antenna: A dome antenna has a 360-degree throw with a broadcasting range of 50 feet. It’s a multi-purpose indoor antenna when needing to broadcast signals evenly across open spaces.
  • Panel Antenna: A panel antenna has a 70-degree throw with a broadcasting range of 75 feet. It’s a specialized indoor antenna for priority areas, high ceilings, and corridors.

What's the Difference Between Passive, Active, and Hybrid DAS?

All three distributed antenna systems have the same objective: to improve indoor coverage for reliable voice and data. However, they differ significantly in their functionality and capabilities, which can impact performance, cost, and deployment.

Passive DAS, also referred to as a cell phone signal booster, is the most common type of DAS installation. It uses passive components, pieces that do not actively generate energy, to enhance in-building coverage, facilitating lowest cost and shortest deployment time.

Signal is obtained off-air from local cellular towers using a donor antenna usually mounted on the roof. The signal is transmitted through coaxial cable, boosted by an amplifier, and rebroadcasted within a defined space. Most Passive DAS support multiple carriers simultaneously without requiring much involvement from the carriers.

It’s a great solution for enhancing LTE, 4G, and 5G cellular reception across areas of up to 100,000 sq ft. Though, with multiple units, it’s able to cover up to 500,000 sq ft.

Passive DAS Diagram


  • Most Affordable DASCost averages about $0.50-$1 per sq ft of coverage.
  • Fastest Deployment InstallationRanges from days to a week.

Things to Consider

  • Most Affordable DASCost averages about $0.50-$1 per sq ft of coverage.
  • Fastest Deployment InstallationRanges from days to a week.

Active DAS is best-in-class in terms of enhancing coverage and capacity. Any high-traffic building over 500,000 sq. ft. needing complete wall-to-wall coverage (like a stadium or airport) should consider Active DAS.

The signal for Active DAS comes directly from the carriers’ network through carrier-specific BTSs or small cells. Permission to connect to the carrier network is often required per carrier before deployment. To handle and maintain a strong signal, it’s comprised of active components, pieces that need energy to work.

Received signals are converted from an analog radio frequency to a digital signal for transmission across digital cabling such as Ethernet or fiber optic. This enables longer cable runs than are possible with traditional coax cable, allowing greater scalability and coverage.

Remote units distributed throughout the building convert the digital signals back to analog for broadcasting through connected antennas.

Active DAS Diagram


  • Superior CoverageWall-to-wall coverage, even in challenging environments.
  • Increases CapacityKeeps multiple devices connected by creating its own capacity.
  • ScalableDeployable in large buildings and campuses.

Things to Consider

  • Priciest OptionCost averages about $5-$10 per sq ft of coverage.
  • Lengthiest DeploymentInstallation can take several months to over a year.
  • Carrier ApprovalsConnecting to the carriers’ network requires approvals per desired carrier.

Hybrid DAS blends active and passive components. It provides greater coverage than Passive DAS at a lower cost than Active DAS.

Most common signal source for this setup is off-air. An amplifier is used to enhance received signals for one or multiple carriers. Deployment does not require carrier approvals, increasing turnaround time. A BTS can also be used with carrier approvals.

Via coaxial cable, the amplifier connects to a master unit to convert analog signals to digital for transmission across dedicated fiber or Ethernet cabling. This mitigates attenuation from coaxial cable and allows strong signal distribution across large areas.

Signal is converted back to analog by the remote units and broadcasted by connected antennas.

Flexible, Hybrid DAS installation can be scaled to fit any size building. Though, it’s most commonly integrated in buildings ranging from 100,000 sq ft to 500,000 sq ft.

Hybrid DAS Diagram


  • Great CoverageDelivers reliable connectivity wherever needed.
  • Fast DeploymentInstallation can take a few weeks to a few months, or longer with BTS.
  • ScalableMeets coverage needs of varying buildings and campuses.

Things to Consider

  • Pricier than Passive DASCost averages about $1-$2.50 per sq ft of coverage.
  • Relies on Existing Cell SignalExisting signal strength and quality will affect performance.
  • Challenging InstallationThe use of both digital and coax cables can complicate installation.

Passive DAS Manufacturers

Which DAS is Right for You

88% 88% of all commercial buildings in America are under 25,000 sq. ft.
94% Nearly 94% of all commercial buildings are under 50,000 sq. ft. or less.
2% Only 2% of commercial buildings are large, high-traffic areas over 500,000 sq. ft.
Passive DAS

Passive DAS is the best choice for buildings up to 100,000 sq. ft., with capability of scaling up to 500,000 sq. ft. It provides signal coverage when priority areas are more important than wall-to-wall coverage. Passive is 10-25% more cost-effective compared to Active DAS.

Active DAS

Active DAS is best for large commercial buildings: complex, sprawling high-traffic areas like airports, stadiums, convention centers, and structures over 500,000 sq ft. For bigger & more populated areas in need of wall-to-wall signal, Active DAS is the preferred choice.

Hybrid DAS

Hybrid DAS is the perfect middle ground for buildings between 100,000 to 500,000 sq ft. It combines the scalability of Active DAS with the affordability of Passive DAS. Ideal for businesses wanting wall-to-wall coverage across without exceeding budgetary constraints.

DAS Installation Process

  • Free Consultation
  • Site Survey
System Design
System Design
  • Data Analysis
  • Floor Plans
  • Equipment Recommendation
Obtain Approvals
  • Submit Applications
  • Show Preliminary Design to Carrier
  • Wait for Approval
  • Equipment
  • Deployment
  • Documentation
  • Monitoring & Support

Frequently Asked Questions

The choice between active, passive, and hybrid DAS depends on multiple factors, such as the size of the venue, budget constraints, scalability requirements, and desired level of performance. Consulting with a DAS expert or integrator can help assess your specific needs and recommend the best DAS solution for you. Give us a call at 1-800-420-3211.

Active DAS only requires carrier approvals when using a BTS. Approvals must be obtained from each carrier whose coverage you’d like to improve in your building. This process can take a minimum of 6 months.

Internet connectivity is not needed for Passive DAS. Hybrid DAS only requires an internet connection for activation. Active DAS does need a continuous internet connection if using Small Cells as the signal source.

Successful deployment and maintenance of a DAS system requires thorough planning, proper design, skilled installation, and ongoing monitoring.

It's essential to work with reputable vendors and DAS installers, like our in-house integrator Bolton Install Pros, who have experience in deploying DAS solutions. Regular maintenance and monitoring ensure optimal operation.

Passive and Hybrid DAS are meant for indoor use. Active DAS, on the other hand, can be used outdoors if rated for outdoor use. All our DAS solutions are for in-building applications.

A site survey allows our professional team onto your site, where we perform a site walk with the latest equipment for determining powerful signal. This includes dB levels, SNR, wave patterns, and more.

This also allows our team to get a feel for the layout of your building(s), determining optimal routes for running cable and figuring out what building material may pose challenges for a successful installation.