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How Should Building Owners Prepare for 5G?

Few technologies have been in the news recently as much as 5G. Everyone is talking about the next generation of cellular networks, but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of practical information. Is 5G little more than a buzzword, or should you be planning to capitalize on it?

When it comes to investing in new technology, it pays to be a little cautious. You don’t want to spend all your time and money implementing something that turns out to be a passing trend. As 5G networks start to go up, though, they deserve your attention.

5G technology shows a lot of promise, but it’ll take a while before it’s fully accessible. Here’s what it could do for your building and how you should prepare for it.

What 5G Could Do for Your Tenants

You’re probably already aware that 5G brings notable improvements to speed, latency and bandwidth. On the surface, that means that your tenants could have faster, more reliable cell service. These upgrades also enable some other desirable features for your building.

5G can support more devices in one area than 4G or Wi-Fi, which is ideal for smart home technology. Already, 69% of U.S. households own at least one smart home device, and 18% of those own more. Given how popular these technologies are, being able to support more of them is a considerable benefit.

With 5G, you could implement an ecosystem of hundreds or even thousands of smart devices. You could turn your property into a vast, interconnected digital environment, with countless IoT gadgets improving its comfort and value. Tenants could also connect far more devices without worrying about disruptions or slowed internet.

As far as how 5G will affect your tenants’ call quality, there won’t be any major changes. Video calls will be smoother and more consistent, but voice calls will remain about the same. You don’t have to worry about 5G disrupting voice calls, but it won’t bring marked improvements, either.

What New Infrastructure Does 5G Require?

5G can do a lot for your building, but what will it cost? Like in the switch from 3G to 4G, moving to 5G will require some new infrastructure. This infrastructure can be expensive, costing mobile companies as much as 60% more in network-related costs in the next five years.

Given that expense, 5G will stay in major cities at first, and it’ll roll out slowly. Carriers may be pickier about where they install new towers, so getting 5G coverage could be challenging. You should also keep in mind that 5G networks require a different approach to infrastructure than today’s connections.

5G signals don’t reach as far as 4G, so it needs more antennas in the same space. As a result, these networks will rely more on small cells that ensure reliable coverage in a smaller area. If you want to prepare for 5G, you’ll have to ensure you have the space and capacity for these small cells.

Differences in 5G Frequencies

You should also be aware that 5G comes in three different frequencies: low-, mid- and high-band 5G. High-band, more often called mmWave, provides lightning-fast service over a much smaller area. Mid- and low-band 5G use sub-6GHz frequencies, like 4G, and cover a broader scope than mmWave, but aren’t as fast.

Even the lower 5G frequencies will still be an improvement over today’s networks. Low-band 5G can reach speeds up to 250 Mbps, and mid-band can reach 900 Mbps. No matter the frequency, 5G will be a substantial improvement over 4G.

When considering investing in 5G, you need to think about whether you want mmWave, mid- or low-band service. Most of the loftiest claims you’ll hear about 5G are usually referring to mmWave technology specifically. This service will enable futuristic tech like driverless cars, but may not be worth it for residential applications.

Since today’s 4G networks already use sub-6GHz frequencies, low- and mid-band 5G may not require new infrastructure. Even if they do, they won’t need as much, making it more accessible and affordable than mmWave. At the moment, though, Sprint is the only carrier offering mid-band 5G, so that limits your options.

Balancing Current Needs With Future Possibilities

There are already 5G-capable devices on the market, and all major carriers offer 5G in some areas. While it’ll take some time before these networks replace 4G LTE, it may not be as far away as you think. In the next few years, having 5G technology available could be a significant selling point for potential tenants.

That said, you don’t need to dive headfirst into adopting 5G tech. It’s a good idea to prepare for it, but don’t alienate 4G users in your pursuit of 5G. Don’t replace all of your cell infrastructure yet, but you may want to create the space and budget for 5G.

You may want to look for mid- and low-band 5G equipment since that will require the least disruption. If your buildings are in a larger city, mmWave technology may be more accessible, so you could go in that direction. In either case, you can start getting your building ready to handle additional equipment before you invest in the network itself.

Keep in mind that 5G networks aren’t delivering anything close to their potential right now. With today’s limited infrastructure, most 5G networks are only marginally faster than 4G — if at all. It’ll be a few years before 5G delivers on its promises, so take your investments slowly.

It’s Time to Start Thinking About 5G

5G may not be everywhere yet, but it could arrive before you know it. If you want to attract tenants in the future, you should prepare for tomorrow’s technology. Given its expense, it’s best to take a slow, careful approach to investing in 5G, but keep an eye on it.

As these networks start to take off, you can grow your investments in them. You don’t need to sink everything you have into 5G right now, but it’s not a bad idea to start investing. The demand for 5G isn’t high at the moment, but it likely will be in the future.

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