HomeDAS & In Building WirelessCBRSBehind the scenes of the Rudin-Crown Castle CBRS deal

Behind the scenes of the Rudin-Crown Castle CBRS deal

An inside look at how the companies collaborated to launch one of the first CBRS-enabled buildings in the U.S.

Last week, The Rudin Family and Crown Castle International announced that the former’s 345 Park Avenue building in New York had become one of the first multi-tenant commercial buildings in the United States to enable Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS). The CBRS radio spectrum access will allow 345 Park tenants to create and access their own dedicated, private broadband wireless network.

“This exciting new technology goes beyond what was possible even a few years ago,” Michael Rudin, Senior Vice President at Rudin Management Company, the operating arm of Rudin Family holdings said in last week’s joint statement. “The spectrum that this technology is based in is the wave of the future, and tenants and owners alike who rely on fast, reliable connectivity will need this in order to stay competitive.”

How the Rudin-Crown Castle partnership came together

Crown Castle, which currently owns, operates and leases more than 40,000 cell towers and approximately 80,000 route miles of fiber that supports small cells and fiber solutions across every major U.S. market, was always Rudin’s top choice on the CBRS collaboration at 345 Park.

“We only deal with the best,” Rudin Management Chief Operating Officer John Gilbert told Connected Real Estate Magazine. “It was an easy decision. Crown and Rudin have had a longstanding relationship. Their fiber is in almost every one of our buildings. There were other companies we talked to, and they were great, but because of our longstanding relationship and the preeminent position Crown has in the marketplace, we felt they were the best to go with.”

Meanwhile, familiarity as well as Rudin’s forward thinking when it came to CBRS was what drew Crown Castle into the project.

“This is something that some of us even in prior lives have been thinking about in terms of the real promise of CBRS and what you’d be able to do over time,” Crown Castle Vice President of Strategy, Business and Product Development Paul Reddick told Connected. “When we started talking to John, it was clear that Rudin is really forward thinking about building management and the use of (Internet of Things) for building management. I was also thinking broadly about how CBRS was a gift to commercial real estate and this simultaneously is an opportunity to get better coverage in buildings.

“For us, even had we not worked with Rudin before, it would have been love at first sight in that the vision alignment’s really good. That was really important.”

What a CBRS-enabled 345 Park will entail

Neutral host CBRS network construction is currently complete in 345 Park’s lobby and concourse levels. It’s expected that additional areas will be connected later this year. With CBRS access, the building’s current wireless capacity will double and there will be more flexibility for configuring wireless solutions for improved security and visitor features. For example, Rudin is looking at wireless cameras for the lobby area. Additionally, visitors and tenants with newer mobile phones will notice a substantially enhanced throughput.

“As we enhance the bandwidth, we will begin to look at new applications upon which that bandwidth can ultimately, ride,” Gilbert said. “Then the real push is going to be having conversations with our major building tenants. Crown Castle will unfold a plan that will enable them to have private LTE networks and jump from 4G to 5G quite quickly.”

Wireless carriers will likely want to get involved

There currently isn’t any commercial traffic on 345 Park’s CBRS, but Gilbert said Rudin has been in talks with carriers and there is an interest. Initially, Rudin will make sure everything works well for the IoT systems, and then carriers will run traffic and experiment with it. From there commercial terms can be reached and carriers can bring their full customer base on board.

“I see no real impediment to that,” Gilbert said. “The technology works, the economics work and the demand is there. It’s just a matter of walking before we run, but we expect to be running.”

In the past, wireless carriers have been somewhat hesitant to a make a big financial commitment to CRE owners so they can run all of their customers through a CBRS network. There are a couple of factors that might have them coming around however, according to Reddick. The first factor is that it’s been challenging to get adequate coverage in CRE buildings across the U.S. for some time. There’s a demand that hasn’t quite been fulfilled and while DAS systems have worked well for large venues like stadiums, they can be cost prohibitive in multi-tenant buildings. It’s less expensive to meet tenants’ connectivity demands with CBRS than DAS, a fact that wireless carriers are coming around to.

The second factor is that sharing a RAN network allows multiple parties financially supporting it.

“We see a combination of value that it provides to the building owner, to the tenants and the carriers are part of the magic bullet,” Reddick said. “Something that any individual entity might have said was too expensive to fund—now it gets better. It’s been a long-term issue around building owners thinking that carriers should put in better coverage, and carriers thinking that building owners should pay for that as part of their plumbing.

“What we think we’ve done here is we’ve come up with a very good sharing mechanism that each can pay according to the value that they’re getting out of it over time and have one party invest and put it in. And that’s what we’re doing.”

“(CBRS) solves a problem where there was no solution prior to that,” Gilbert said. “If owners are out there, if enterprises are out there and they are interested in getting to 5G as fast as they can, IoT and sustainability, and how do they ultimately prove out that carbon neutrality and carbon net zero strategies within that sustainability focus, then I believe that CBRS has a huge role to play in that. In that it creates an opportunity to grab data utilizing bandwidth that is safe and secure from a cyber standpoint, that does not interfere with existing Wi-Fi networks, which is a big issue.”

Joe Dyton can be reached at joed@fifthgenmedia.com.

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