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Wireless Coverage Enhancements for Educational Institutions

School Building Radio Communications

Schools have relied upon analog two-way radios for in-building and on-campus communications for decades. Today, digital technologies, like Motorola two-way and smart radios, are leading the industry in instant communications, blending the best features of smartphones with the dependability and power of push-to-talk (PTT). Security officers, educators, administrators, and bus drivers can access features like texting, GPS, Wi-Fi, and more with these solutions. They use radios to coordinate bus pick-ups, ensure campus safety, direct janitorial tasks, and more during standard and emergency operations.

In the unfortunate event that there is an emergency situation, first responders use various forms of wireless devices (on dedicated RF channels) – from two-way radios to tablets and laptops – to coordinate their response and communicate efficiently and effectively with their teams both on-site and at command central.

Additionally, today’s highly connected and digitized landscape means that more teachers – and students – than ever are using digital technology in and out of the classroom. Teachers are using connected whiteboards during classes to present material and upload lessons and coursework to online platforms for students to complete at home. They communicate with parents via online portals, and students use digital resources for research and assignment completion. Strong and reliable connectivity is imperative across all school campuses to ensure that both students and teachers have the access and resources they need.

Despite these expanded capabilities, schools are discovering dead spots for both Internet connectivity and wireless and radio communications across their facilities. Depending upon when their facilities were built and the materials used during construction, many devices – regardless of age or technological capability – may fail to work in a myriad of spots in and around their campuses. As the safety and security of students and faculty are critical, any inability to communicate or coordinate activities is generally deemed unacceptable.

Cellular Distributed Antenna Systems and Public Safety Distributed Antenna Systems – also known as Emergency Responder Communication Enhancement Systems – are required to ensure that everyone on campus – from students and teachers to maintenance workers and first responders – has access to a clear and reliable communication channel and the connectivity they need.

Current Challenge | Inadequate In-Building Radio and Cellular Coverage

Despite all the advancements in handheld cellular technologies, devices like smartphones and tablets are generally limited to operation on public cellular networks. While reliable enough for standard communications, those networks and the cell towers they utilize to connect can fail to support critical communications during major school emergencies.

When emergencies occur, cell tower overload can limit or prevent attempts to connect, making private radio and private cellular networks the preferred options for critical communications.

However, even when private networks are deployed, typical construction materials like concrete cinder blocks can degrade or prevent RF and LTE signals from reaching users inside school buildings.

Solution Overview | Coverage Enhancing Solutions for School Buildings

Whether your school has deployed a private radio or LTE network like our Motorola Nitro™ solution, you’ll likely still need additional systems to distribute signals evenly across your facilities.

Ideally, you’ll need to install systems that utilize a single combined cabling infrastructure that minimizes any redundant materials that may be intrusive to school aesthetic design while also being scalable — allowing for rapid deployment of new RF and LTE technologies without replacing existing systems completely.

Radio Repeaters for School RF Coverage Enhancement

Radio Repeaters for In-Building and Mobile Use

Radio repeaters – like the Motorola SLR Repeaters – are crucial in increasing radio frequency (RF) strength for both in-building and mobile applications by amplifying and retransmitting RF signals. They help extend the coverage area and improve signal quality in areas with poor reception or signal dead zones.

Signal Reception

The repeater’s outdoor antenna is placed in an area with a relatively good RF signal reception, often on the roof of a building or a tower. This antenna captures the incoming RF signals from nearby cell towers or base stations.

Signal Amplification

The received RF signals are then sent to an amplifier within the repeater. The amplifier boosts the strength of these signals to a level suitable for transmission over longer distances.

Signal Processing

In some cases, especially in advanced repeater systems, signal processing may occur to filter out interference and noise, helping to improve the overall signal quality.

Signal Re-Transmission

After amplification and processing (if needed), the amplified RF signals are transmitted via an indoor antenna. In the case of in-building applications, the indoor antenna is strategically placed inside the building to provide coverage where needed. In mobile applications, such as vehicles, the indoor antenna can be placed inside the vehicle.

Improved Coverage

The indoor antenna retransmits the amplified signal, providing enhanced coverage within the building or vehicle. Users within the coverage area experience better signal strength, improved call quality, and faster data speeds.

Feedback Control

To prevent interference and ensure the repeater does not oscillate (interfere with its own signal), repeaters often incorporate feedback control mechanisms. These mechanisms monitor the signal and adjust the amplification to maintain a stable and clear signal.

In-Vehicle RF Repeaters

In mobile or vehicle applications, RF repeaters are designed to address signal issues inside a moving vehicle.

External Antenna

The repeater system includes an external antenna mounted outside the vehicle that captures weak RF signals from nearby cell towers or base stations.


The captured signals are sent to an amplifier unit located inside the vehicle. The amplifier boosts the signal’s strength.

Internal Antenna

Inside the vehicle is an internal antenna that retransmits the amplified signal and is strategically placed to provide coverage throughout the vehicle’s interior.

Improved Coverage

The retransmitted signal provides improved coverage within the vehicle. Passengers’ mobile devices, such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops, can connect to this boosted signal, resulting in better call quality and faster data speeds while on the move.

Mobile Repeater Use Cases

Fleet Vehicles

Commercial vehicle fleets, such as school buses, delivery trucks, and public transportation, may use in-vehicle repeaters to ensure that communication and data connections are consistently strong for their operations.

Public Safety Vehicles

Police cars, ambulances, and fire trucks may use in-vehicle repeaters to maintain reliable communication during emergency responses.

Public Safety DAS / Emergency Responder Communication Enhancement Systems (ERCES)

Even more important than systems that boost signal coverage for your in-house communications systems, schools need systems that boost coverage for emergency responder radio communications. When police, fire, and rescue teams arrive on-scene to emergency events, they need to be able to quickly and clearly communicate with one another to coordinate rescue operations.

School Communications with Public Safety DAS and ERCES

For this kind of communication, your school must have a tested and certified public safety DAS – also known as Emergency Responder Communications Enhancement System (ERCES).

ERCES serves distinct purposes in building communication. ERCES is designed to ensure reliable communication for emergency responders during crises, adhering to stringent regulations and often incorporating redundancy and backup power. It typically operates on dedicated frequencies and serves specific public safety personnel.

Dedicated Network

ERCES are built on a dedicated network separate from the public cellular or radio networks. This network is specifically reserved for public safety and emergency use, ensuring it remains available even during heavy network congestion.

Signal Enhancement

ERCES involve installing equipment such as antennas, amplifiers, and cabling throughout the school building to enhance the signals used by public safety radios, including police radios, fire department radios, and emergency medical services radios.

Coverage Optimization

The ERCES system is designed to provide comprehensive coverage throughout the school, including in areas with poor signal reception due to building materials or structures, ensuring that emergency responders can communicate effectively regardless of their location within the school.

Backup Power

ERCES systems often include backup power sources, such as batteries or generators, to ensure continuous operation during power outages, which can occur during emergencies.

Compliance with Regulations

ERCES school installations must comply with relevant local, state, and national regulations and codes, such as those set forth by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Compliance ensures that the system meets the necessary standards for reliability and performance.

Integration with Fire Alarm Systems

In some cases, ERCES systems may be integrated with the school’s fire alarm system. This integration allows for automatic activation of the ERCES during a fire alarm event, ensuring that emergency responders have immediate access to reliable communication.

Cellular Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS)

When properly configured, installed, and tested within schools, Cellular Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) boost cellular signals and coverage across your entire building – especially in locations that commonly experience poor reception, like stairwells or storage closets.

Cellular DAS system components (like BDAs, HEUs, and Indoor and Outdoor Antennas) become vital parts of your schools’ overall communications infrastructure, ensuring your cellular devices can broadcast and receive clear and concise signals no matter the situation that necessitates their use.

Outdoor and Indoor Antennas

Outdoor Antennas

DAS installations typically begin with outdoor antennas placed on the school’s roof or another high point. These antennas are connected to the school’s telecommunications infrastructure, such as cell towers or base stations. They capture the incoming cellular signals from the surrounding area.

Indoor Antennas

Inside the school buildings, a network of indoor antennas is strategically placed throughout the campus. These indoor antennas distribute the amplified signals to provide comprehensive coverage.

Signal Amplification and Distribution

Signal Amplification

The captured outdoor signals are sent to a signal processing unit, which amplifies and conditions the signals. This amplification is essential to ensure the signals are strong enough to cover the entire school campus, especially in larger institutions.


The amplified signals are then distributed through a network of coaxial or fiber-optic cables to the various indoor antennas throughout the school. These indoor antennas rebroadcast the signals within their coverage areas.

Improved Coverage and Capacity

Enhanced Coverage

The indoor antennas effectively extend the coverage of cellular signals indoors, eliminating dead zones and ensuring that students and staff can make calls, send texts, and use data services throughout the campus.

Increased Capacity

In addition to coverage, DAS installations can also enhance capacity. In a school environment, multiple students and staff members may simultaneously use their mobile devices for various purposes, such as accessing educational resources or making calls. DAS helps manage the increased demand for wireless data by providing more efficient signal distribution.

Carrier Agnostic and Multi-Band Support

Carrier Agnostic

DAS installations are typically carrier agnostic, meaning they can support multiple wireless carriers simultaneously to ensure that users of different cellular providers can all benefit from improved coverage and capacity.

Multi-Band Support

DAS systems can also support multiple frequency bands, including 3G, 4G LTE, 5G, and other radio services like public safety communications. This versatility allows schools to adapt to changing wireless technologies and requirements.

Monitoring and Maintenance

System Monitoring

DAS installations often include monitoring systems that allow school administrators or IT personnel to track the system’s performance, identify issues, and perform necessary maintenance.

About MCA

MCA is one of the largest and most trusted DAS integrators in the United States, offering world-class voice, data, and security solutions that enhance the quality, safety, and productivity of customers, operations, and lives.

More than 65,000 customers trust MCA to provide carefully researched solutions for a safe, secure, and more efficient workplace. As your trusted advisor, we reduce the time and effort needed to research, install, and maintain the right solutions to make your workplace better.

Our team of certified professionals across the United States delivers a full suite of reliable technologies with a service-first approach. The MCA advantage is our extensive service portfolio to support the solution lifecycle from start to finish.

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