In-Building wireless: what to know before signing on the dotted line
Everyone has experienced it. You’re outside, talking on your phone or looking at the latest breaking news, or checking what’s happening on social media, and as soon as you step inside — an office building, a shop, your apartment — your connection suddenly slows, or your call drops completely. And your frustration builds.
Connectivity is growing, from cars and trucks on the roads to the smartwatch on your wrist, and consumers expect strong, consistent wireless connections whether they’re walking on the street or sitting at home. Never has this been more important than for the commercial real estate industry, which relies on consistent coverage to ensure it meets its residents’ needs. Given mobile data traffic has grown 18-fold over the past five years, and 429 million mobile devices and connections were added in 2016, according to the Cisco Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update, demand on the in-building network is only going to go up. Here’s what companies should consider before they sign a new building lease, and what cities can do to help businesses now, so they are set up for a prosperous wireless future.
Setting cities and enterprises up for success with a few basics
There’s been a noticeable shift from consumers demanding cellular voice coverage alone — to one that now focuses on a combination of cellular and Wi-Fi, and voice and data. With that in mind, enterprises should look to follow a few key best practices when purchasing or developing a new commercial site.
- Explore the existing network environment
- Determine indoor and immediate outdoor network coverage and quality
- Identify cellular/Wi-Fi data holes
- Determine the need for small cell or distributed antenna system (DAS) deployment
- Analyze the overall network experience
- Ensure networks are available for emergency calls and first responders
More people are relying on wireless connectivity when at work or in the home, and expect a seamless and high-quality coverage experience.
Lessons learned from working with a real estate developer
In-building wireless was typically focused on the needs of the carrier, but things have changed. Now that the focus has shifted to the enterprise user and end customer, it’s crucial for companies to remember a few critical items before moving into any new space.
- The quality of fixed and mobile broadband availability in commercial buildings has become a competitive measuring stick for property owners/managers. This has been a benefit for enterprise companies wanting to rent new space, which is why it’s important to look for the building that offers the most reliable, widespread coverage to meet your needs.
- As they look to attract new enterprises to their buildings, commercial real estate companies no longer need to spend thousands of dollars to assess indoor network quality in a single building. Less expensive and operationally intensive solutions exist today, which means fewer costs are then passed down to the enterprise looking for a new space.
- Understanding signal strength should go beyond just the number of bars you see on your phone. Companies can often be misled by differing coverage capabilities on their phones and hand-held devices. It’s also essential to consider coverage capacity, and whether the signal strength you see can handle the size and data demands of your various employees.
- Despite the commercials on TV that tout coverage, companies often complain about coverage quality indoors. Therefore, it’s important that companies work with a real estate developer or building owner that has also taken the time to analyze indoor coverage quality on a granular level. This will help the building owner keep and attract customers, while also keeping the existing enterprise clients happy.
Importance of getting it right/what happens if you get it wrong
Getting coverage right is what matters for any building owner, and at the end of the day, it’s about a customer’s experience. Not only are there benefits for the enterprise in the building, but more significant benefits for the city where that building is located.
Benefits for the enterprise:
- Happier customers are the result of a building at capacity or near full, ensuring calls and device usage aren’t dropped — get the facts before signing a new lease
- Developers are often looking to attract high-tech companies that require highly performant wireless networks, which can benefit all companies in a building
- Commercial real estate companies want to increase retention rates, which is why it’s important to ensure that coverage needs are met early
Getting this wrong can mean building owners don’t see any new leases, and businesses in their buildings falter, which would leave several unhappy customers.
Benefits for the city:
- With the right in-building coverage for companies, cities can leverage those strong, reliable networks to attract more enterprises to develop projects, which in turn creates more job opportunities
- Cities can also maintain a happier population due to reliable connectivity whether indoors or outdoors
Getting it wrong could result in unsafe conditions and abandoned buildings and neighborhoods. For example, if a building doesn’t have reliable connectivity, it might mean that a fire department or an ambulance can’t be contacted in the event of an emergency.
Overall, enterprises who invest early in reliable connectivity will see happier customers and increased productivity. Cities will also have a better understanding of why the importance of building a stronger wireless infrastructure, coupled with a focus on quality of experience, can be a boon for businesses and their residents.