JMA Wireless

JMA Wireless

JMA Wireless has experienced tremendous growth with its wireless infrastructure solutions and is becoming more involved with vertically integrated industries.

By Tim O'Connor

The Super Bowl is one of the largest annual events in the world. The 2016 NFL championship drew an average of 111.9 million viewers from home and another 71,088 in the stands.

When the world’s eyes are upon you, nothing can go wrong. Pulling off such a large event requires detailed coordination from state and NFL officials down to the ball boys and technical contractors. For this year’s Super Bowl Sunday, JMA Wireless’ job was to ensure everyone sitting in Levi’s Stadium could soak in the jarring hits and finesse passes on the field without a second thought about cell phone signal and speeds when they sent a halftime selfie to their friends.

“We’ve been here before and we’re confident in our technology,” says Todd Landry, corporate vice president of product and market strategy for JMA Wireless. The wireless solutions manufacturer already was familiar with Levi’s Stadium, having provided the facility’s wireless equipment before it opened in July 2014.

For Super Bowl 50, the NFL wanted to expand those capabilities to ensure a smooth experience for the masses of fans and press that descended on Santa Clara, Calif. Landry says Levi’s Stadium is now the single largest wireless DAS venue in the world, with what equates to about 30 cell towers within its structure covering all of the major U.S. mobile operators.

The stadium’s wireless signal stretches beyond its façade to the light poles in the parking lot and to street areas in the surrounding Santa Clara area in the form of small cells run off the JMA Wireless system.  All of this was done to ensure a seamless experience for fans in and around Super Bowl 50. The design goes further to provide a MIMO (Multiple Input, Multiple Output) service, whereby each mobile LTE user has multiple data paths instead of one, significantly increasing the performance. “For most users, if they’re experiencing an average of 10 to 20 megabits per second, the response on their mobile is really, really good,” Landry says.

JMA Wireless’ ability to execute on large-scale projects has made it a premier wireless equipment vendor for many of the biggest names in professional and collegiate sports. Names such as the Philadelphia Eagles, Angel Stadium, Daytona Speedway, Notre Dame, Purdue, Rutgers, and the Citrus Bowl are just a few on the growing list. Last year JMA replaced a competitor’s system in the historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway, resulting in excellent performance for approximately 400,000 onsite fans. JMA Wireless is far from done and has many other unannounced sports venues in process. “We’ve become the platform of choice of large-scale sports and entertainment venues,” Landry says.

As the world becomes more connected, JMA Wireless is an important partner for construction projects such as upgrades to the Woodruff Arts Center in Atlanta. Project owners and builders have been attracted to JMA Wireless not only for its capabilities, but also its consultative approach to the entire project along with its commitment to cutting the true cost of ownership.

Signal Strengthening

JMA Wireless traces its roots back to the 1940s when it was a manufacturer of specialized connectivity for the emergence of broadband services. For most of its history, the company operated under the name PPC Broadband Inc. That organization lasted until 2012 when PPC sold a portion of its business to Belden’s Broadcast Solutions, retaining its newer entry into the wireless sector and using the the proceeds to form a new company now known as JMA Wireless. Since then, JMA Wireless has completed several acquisitions, such as CSS Antenna Inc. in Baltimore and Teko Telecom in Bologna, Italy, in order to further build out its portfolio. JMA leverages all of its technologies to service the vastly growing in-building wireless market and in a mere three years has become the fastest growing company in the industry. It has risen to become one of the top three providers of in-building distributed antenna systems in the United States.

JMA Wireless manufactures three primary types of products: antennas, transmission lines, and distributed antenna systems (DAS). Its antenna lineup includes macro base stations, in-building antennas and outdoor antennas. In transmission lines, the company offers the gold standard in compression connectors and custom made laser-welded jumpers – both far surpass performance of other technology approaches in the industry and are highly protected by JMA via hundreds of patents. The industry’s leading DAS platform is marketed under the JMA Wireless TEKO brand. This system is highly modular to adapt to different needs and venues types and is one of the few that fully integrates all the key technologies into a single solution for both indoor and outdoor environments.

Last year, the company introduced the revolutionary FUZE platform, which provides a unique “cartridge-style” level of modularity for the TEKO DAS and can utilize different forms of power delivery, including the latest in digital electricity, resulting in significantly lower costs and secure deployment areas. FUZE provides environmental protection to industry standards set by the National Fire Protection Association.

The company has many more plans up its sleeves to expand its product lineup; however, Landry was not ready to reveal those plans. “Part of our growth strategy is to extend into several other new areas of wireless infrastructure in ways that won’t be expected,” he says.

With manufacturing, R&D, and sales and support operations in more than 20 countries, JMA Wireless has carved out a global customer base. “Our technology is pretty adaptable,” Landry explains. “Globally, we’re focused in the areas that have economic growth going on and have immediate demand for this type of coverage and capacity.”

One of the challenges of being a global wireless equipment manufacturer is adhering to a vast number of local laws, safety standards, voltage differences and airwave regulations that can impact a product’s capabilities. Landry says that all of JMA Wireless’ equipment goes through the appropriate local government process to be certified for use, and the systems are designed to support  all the different radio frequencies for each country. “We invest a lot to make sure our equipment meets all the appropriate safety and radio standards for each of our individual countries or regions,” he explains.

In addition to stadiums, JMA Wireless works with office buildings, college campuses, hotels, hospitals, and manufacturing companies as well as mobile network operators such as Verizon, AT&T and neutral host providers. "For example neutral host operator, ExteNet Systems, is a key customer and partner for JMA Wireless. They build, own and operate distributed antenna systems and other types of networks, which are leveraged by the mobile operators for coverage and capacity solutions. ExteNet has leveraged our solutions in many of its marquee networks," Landry says.

"With about 80 percent of all mobile traffic originating indoors, providing robust seamless wireless coverage in high traffic venues such as stadiums, airports, hotels and convention centers is ever so critical,” says Tormond Larsen, CTO and vice president at ExteNet System. “Being the leading independent neutral-host provider, we are involved in several DAS and other distributed networks where JMA Wireless is our strategic partner. Our goal is to serve our wireless carrier and real estate customers in the best possible manner and this involves ensuring a highly available, carrier-class and, most importantly, a high performance network for the end users. We are highly pleased with JMA's Teko DAS portfolio as a solution for our distributed networks ensuring enhanced cellular capacity and coverage."

Although the core designs of its products are flexible enough to serve a range of uses, the company is working to become more specialized for vertically integrated industries.

Landry says JMA Wireless is speaking directly to the decision-makers in those vertical markets to explain its capabilities and demonstrate the value proposition for customers’ audiences. The commercial real estate sector, for example, is seeing greater demand from tenants for built in wireless and cellular technologies. “[Wireless] becomes so important that it becomes a marketable attribute for a facility and is a mandate by tenants,” Landry says.

“We believe it is imperative that commercial properties provide excellent cellular coverage and capacity for its tenants,” says Cris Kimbrough, managing director at CBRE Inc. Telecom Advisory Services. “Distributed antenna systems are being deployed in our properties to not only ensure powerful mobile communications, but also to help increase the number of long term tenants, keep commercial buildings fully leased and as a way to stay one step ahead of the competition.”

Vertical industries have been particularly receptive to JMA Wireless’ FUZE and TEKO DAS platforms because of their ability to tie into a facility’s existing infrastructure. “People love it because of the efficiency it brings,” Landry says.

Deployment partners typically perform the actual system installation. JMA Wireless trains those partner companies in the technical aspects of its products to ensure a smooth experience for the customer. “We’re usually the supporting team behind them,” Landry says of the installers. “For events like Super Bowl 50, JMA Wireless will have its own people on site to support our partners and mobile operators.”

Cost Conscious

Wireless equipment can be a major investment for any building or outdoor area, which is why JMA Wireless works with its customers to determine the most efficient ways to implement coverage. “The reason we’re having so much success – and what we’re predominately known for – is we engineer our technologies in a way that uniquely meets customer needs and are streamlined to optimize cost of ownership,” Landry says.

Part of that is how platforms such as FUZE repurpose a building’s existing systems, but JMA Wireless’ view of cost of ownership extends much wider. The company takes into account every detail from the operational aspects down to the footprint the physical equipment takes up inside a facility. Systems are designed so they can be easily adapted to any building environment.

Limiting the cost of ownership means limiting manpower. JMA Wireless designs its systems so that customers can remotely analyze performance and immediately make adjustments. Landry says that capability is useful in situations where the wireless system is installed and radio frequencies are set, only to later discover that peripherals such as video boards are causing interference. Because no one can account for every variable, customers need easy access to the system.

A multiband spectrum analyzer allows for a remote, non-intrusive look into how wireless signals are bouncing around the venue. RF engineers can then tune the system to account for whatever interference is occurring. Customers can set a threshold the system should operate within, meaning that they don’t need to hire humans for 24/7 monitoring. “These tools will even record the performance in a venue and alarm radio engineers if there is an anomaly they need to attend to,” Landry says.

While the market is staring to see technologies defined as “small cells” attempt to commoditize the price, JMA Wireless has already hit that market with its TEKO DAS platform. It outperforms these solutions on a cost per square foot basis, while at the same time delivering on the flexibility of a module platform and the ability to support multiple operators and multiple mobile phone frequencies.

Construction Collaboration

In only a few years, wireless connections have become an inseparable part of daily life. Nearly everyone has at least one wireless device. On the go, data for ESPN replays, online video games and Netflix movies ride invisible radio waves from mobile phones and tablets. Business applications have moved swiftly into mobile software that allow access to knowledge bases, design documents, email and video collaboration – making fast always-on connections within offices a critical part of everyday business. To meet that demand, building designers are discovering they must give wireless capabilities the same consideration as a structure’s plumbing and heating systems. “Since wireless capability has become so important, developers and building architects should engage companies like JMA Wireless early in the process,” Landry says.

Involvement in a project’s early stages allows JMA Wireless to help the builder determine mounting materials, power needs and pathways for cabling and fiber optics. Taking wireless capability into consideration can even affect the building design. Materials such as concrete, steel, and even internal walls and plumbing have an affect. Higher energy glass is a favorite material in many modern structures, but its use can dampen outside signals.

Savvy builders who understand the importance of wireless in the design and the impact of building materials on wireless capabilities are opting to design for in-building wireless systems from the start. In that case, the higher energy glass is actually beneficial since it isolates the interior signal from outside interference. “The process of putting in building coverage in place is an infrastructure and RF planning effort,” Landry explains.

During the design phase, JMA Wireless can use architectural drawings to create an RF blueprint of the building materials. Using those results, the builder better understands the components it needs to create the project’s wireless infrastructure. Then when the contractor goes to order the fiber optics for the phone lines or cable system, it also knows how many feet it needs for cellular equipment. Larger bulk orders can help cut the overall cost of those individual materials.

Landry says more contractors and owners are coming to JMA Wireless early in the project schedule as they consider how to optimize the building process to include wireless capability. It’s not just new construction that is taking advantage of JMA Wireless’ service, however. The company also works with owners to retrofit existing buildings. A reliable wireless signal has become especially important for residential high-rises as owners see the demand from prospective tenants. “Most of those buildings never even considered it in the design before,” Landry says.

Setting Itself Apart

The prevalence of mobile devices and the hunger for more bandwidth from the business, hospitality and entertainment sectors led the Federal Communications Commission to auction off the 700 MHz radio frequency band in 2008. Opening up the spectrum, which was previously used by broadcast television, paved the way for increased wireless services. JMA Wireless – then still a part of PPC – soon introduced new equipment that took advantage of the spectrum. “Because we stay close to [the industry], we were the first vendor in the market to make available the new AWS-3 support in our technology.”

JMA Wireless continues to stay ahead of competitors by watching the market and developing equipment to reduce the total cost of wireless service and the speed at which it can deploy those technologies. Last year, the company launched its Centralized Distributed Antenna System (C-DAS). “It’s an architectural approach that allows us to reduce the footprint in a venue like an office building for cell signal by 85 percent.” A smaller footprint means that space which would otherwise be reserved for cellular equipment can instead be reallocated for additional retail or a larger apartment – increasing rental income.

Because of its diverse customer base, each with its own requirements, JMA Wireless’ sales division is split into three distinct areas. One team focuses on the mobile carriers. Another works with integrating systems in large venues such as stadiums. The third tends to enterprise businesses, with managers who develop relationships with specific industries such as commercial real estate that often share similar needs.

Education is a major part of the relationship-building process, Landry says. JMA Wireless must not only provide the right product, but it needs to help the client understand the installation requirements and how the system will benefit users or tenants. For customers with multiple buildings, such as commercial real estate owners, the company develops a plan to standardize the technology and installation across every site.

JMA Wireless continues to work on the next leap in wireless technology, but Landry is not ready to announce any upcoming projects. “JMA Wireless is a very innovative company and is constantly introducing new platforms,” he says. “[It] will have several new technologies coming out in the coming years.”

For now, the company is counting on technologies such as antennas, transmission lines, FUZE, DAS, and even carrier Wi-Fi to fuel its growth. “We take a particularly agile and innovative approach to the industry, which allows us to accelerate our business,” Landry says. Its adaptable equipment has given JMA Wireless a foothold in many industries. However, Landry says many of those industry relationships are still in their infancies. By becoming a more vertical company, JMA Wireless believes it will become a critical partner for its customers.

“Our growth is going to come through an expanded portfolio of technologies,” Landry says, “combined with continued refinements to the ease of which you can deploy solutions into industries such as real estate and hospitality, and our expansion into new geographic sectors.”

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