The Inside Track in In-Building

At the NEDAS NYC Summit last Thursday, thought leaders from all facets of the wireless industry connected to talk connectivity. In the session, “Enabling Carrier Connectivity in Enterprise Funded Buildings,” moderated by Comba Telecom’s Director of North American Sales, Steve Yapsuga, panelists discussed the challenge of ensuring wireless carrier participation in enterprise-funded networks. Ed Myers, Regional VP, CHEYTEC; Keith Pennachio, EVP & Head of Strategy, SQUAN; Jodd Readick, Chairman, User Centric Communications and Bryan Goldberg, Director of Small Cell Real Estate, Verizon, each brought a unique perspective to the table. Inside Towers sat down with Ed Myers of CHEYTEC and David Rundella of SQUAN after the panel, for an even deeper dive.

Connectivity is “now becoming an expectation as opposed to something that’s an upgrade,” Goldberg said. Pennachio agreed, adding that building owners are starting to include it in tenant leases. It’s also frequently listed as a feature in real estate brochures.

Because there is an expectation for reliable and consistent connectivity, classifying it as a utility service, like water or electric, doesn’t seem too farfetched. Rundella told Inside Towers, in the future, he believes it will be treated as a utility in Class A buildings.

However, the true motivating factor for building owners is primarily economic, as opposed to technological. “We take a financial view,” Myers said. It’s about determining the potential income for the building. The goal is to bump up net operating income or decrease vacancy rates. “That’s the conversation we’ve pivoted towards and that’s the one that resonates with them.”

Readick added, that while IoT is one driver, it’s not for all cases. Who is in the building and how they’re utilizing the technology, “drives to a large degree, what’s going to be necessary and how much it’s going to cost.” A garment center is going to have different needs than a VR firm.

So, who’s picking up the tab? The building owner may front the capital, but ultimately the tenants pay, through higher rates on a per square foot basis or through some sort of maintenance charge. Plus, there are massive evolutions – trillion-dollar industry costs that must be absorbed. “The right investment in infrastructure will lead towards a more future-proof building and that’s the direction we encourage our partners to go in,” Goldberg said.

Education continues to be a critical component. “It’s our industry’s responsibility to educate the building owner on the finances associated,” Myers said. “At a high level, people are starting to understand it.” But there are still challenges. “I try to simplify it, because at the end of the day they want to know when they walk in, they’ll have their coverage,” Rundella told Inside Towers. He believes as an industry, we’ve made progress over the last five years and is hopeful that trend will continue.

How do you then ensure multi-signal source participation? Pennachio said SQUAN aligns with the network operators to try and create a bridge for parties to join. “We see certain applications that demand that more than others.” Readick agreed that it all comes down to demand. If people want multiple carriers, that’s what they’ll get. If not, they’ll take the cheapest route. Myers said the key is to “socialize it in the market.”

We’re familiar with BYOB (cheers to that) but how about BYOD – Bring Your Own DAS? Goldberg said Verizon is interested in the concept but the challenge, is the dance across multiple carriers. Readick warned, “be careful what’s in that bottle,” because if you don’t have the project carefully planned, it’ll quickly turn into BYOD – Bring Your Own Disaster.

“People want DAS, people want that in their building. What they don’t want is to spend $500,000 and there’s no service going over the top of it, because there’s no carrier that has joined,” Myers said.

That’s where Cheytec and SQUAN step in, with their Accelerate program. They bring the missing elements. Cheytec provides the RF source and the licensing for the carrier to join the system. They own the gear and keep that under warranty for the life of the license, carrying all of the maintenance responsibility for the gear. SQUAN designs, constructs and tests the system, while quarterbacking the carrier coordination element. The process allows customers to provide a valuable service to tenants without waiting for the wireless operator to provide signal and associated service, thereby generating additional recurring revenue for building owners/operators and increasing overall property value.

Despite the apparent shift in control, the carriers weren’t too hard to sell on the process. “We buy the gear, but we still allow them to manage it and monitor it,” as if they purchased it themselves, so they can still protect their network, Myers explained.

The In-Building space is “still picking up steam,” says Rundella. “I don’t feel it’s fully hit its stride.” With six million commercial buildings out there, it’s still in the early innings. While a percentage of those buildings won’t ever fit the mold, of those that do, Myers believes we’re at less than two percent penetration. “It’s going to take some innovation on the equipment side and on the carrier deployment side but that’s when you’re going to get the real down-market penetration – when it becomes easier to acquire and easier to deploy,” Myers said. Rundella suggested 5G will assist in that process.

By Megan Reed, Marketing Director, Inside Towers 

September 10, 2018

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