It appears there will be plenty of supply when it comes to office space as businesses return to physical locations following the COVID-19 pandemic. But until demand matches that supply, commercial real estate landlords will need to find ways to make their buildings stand out as they fight for tenants. For now, Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) might be a key differentiator, Commercial Observer reports.
CBRS was officially authorized for commercial use in 2020. The wireless frequency band gives CRE owners a chance to have their own private in-building wireless network that’s faster and more secure than Wi-Fi. It could also deliver a faster path to upgrading an entire office building’s connectivity as well as deploying a 5G network.
Landlord Rudin Management Company has recognized CBRS’ in-building potential early. The company, in collaboration with technology partner Crown Castle, launched one of the first multi-tenant CBRS networks at its 345 Park Avenue building in New York.
“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 a 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.”
Rudin plans to enable some of its other properties with CBRS, including 80 Pine Street and 3 Times Square as part of its ongoing renovations, Commercial Observer reports. The firm will continue with “additional rollouts” through its portfolio.
Embracing CBRS makes sense for landlords, according to industry trade group OnGo Alliance. The wireless frequency is faster and more secure than Wi-Fi, and will likely be a key selling point for high-value tenants going forward. Companies and organizations in the technology, education, financial and next-generation manufacturing fields are just some of the types of tenants that will value an in-building wireless network that’s secure and fast.
For example, Virginia Tech deployed a private CBRS network at its main campus. Meanwhile, Dr. Juanyu Bu, vice president of mobility strategy at telecommunications firm CTS, noted that CBRS could support the next wave of smart parking solutions. Ericsson Executive Director Yunis Shahdad said installing CBRS systems could increase a CRE property’s value up to 20 percent at last year’s Connected Virtual Tech Event.
CBRS slowly entering CRE mainstream
If not for the COVID-19 pandemic, CBRS might have made a bigger splash in the CRE industry after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved it last January. The pandemic hit the U.S. two months later however and offices have been mainly vacant ever since. With employees working from home, many early tests were put on hold.
“People thought offices would be the most popular environment for this, but there haven’t been people in offices, Geoverse Vice President Jim Jacobellis told Commercial Observer. “The general consensus is that once COVID ends and people get back in buildings, the growth engine will be offices.”
The American Dream entertainment complex in East Rutherford, NJ, and the Dallas Love Field Airport have also put CBRS to work to improve their communications efficiency. CRE owners might find the technology appealing because it can be separated within a building so tenants can all have private networks. Meanwhile, when tenants use CBRS for high-priority purposes, the building’s Wi-Fi network is freed up for others, creating a better wireless tenant experience for everyone. CBRS can also be used to power smart building applications like security camera systems, lighting, thermostats and locks.
If there were a downside to CBRS, it would be the annual operating costs, which are nearly twice that of a traditional Wi-Fi system, Commercial Observer reports. Plus, not all mobile devices work with CBRS. However, the early adopters are confident that the system will be in high demand once tenants get to experience its benefits.
“You provide better service and you enhance the security of wireless networks,” Rudin Management Chief Operating Officer John Gilbert said. “I think it’s a game changer.”
Joe Dyton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.