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What Property Owners Really Need to Know About Wireless System Design

Featuring Connectivity Wireless’ SVP of Engineering and Construction, Steven Morris

INTERVIEWEE: Steven Morris, P.E., SVP of Engineering and Construction at Connectivity Wireless
TOPIC: Wireless System Design

1. What is one thing you really wish property owners knew about wireless system design

My goal, if I’m the property owner, is to ensure a superior wireless experience both today and as technology evolves over time. It doesn’t start with equipment selection or the wireless operators, although those are important factors. It starts with a strong design.

A strong design – for any technology – should go straight to the endpoints, which are the expected devices and applications.

Especially for carrier-grade Wi-Fi and cellular solutions, you need to partner with someone who has both engineering and construction experience to get a quality design and lasting wireless solution.

I can recall many situations where a property owner was set on a product or infrastructure type that, in the end, just didn’t make sense from a construction perspective or didn’t meet the application requirements.

Ultimately, the best solutions integrate the system with the property, using the physical structure as part of the design and making the actual implementation seamless. You can’t build a quality product that will stand any test of time without this foundational approach.

2. What advice do you have for property owners to make the design process as easy as possible?

I recommend that you find a company, better, find a partner that shares your goals for a system. You want a wireless system that supports all devices and applications; so should the company you hire. Don’t forget the fact that equipment manufacturers and wireless operators are businesses. Each of them has a competitor, and their goals are to make money.

Equipment selection can be a daunting task. I doubt any manufacturer will ever suggest their competitor has a better solution for your venue. You want the network architecture that best fits your property; therefore, I suggest working with a company that deals with all vendors.

Then you have the operators. All too often, I hear about a venue that signed directly with a wireless operator only to end up with just that one carrier years later. Or someone who designed to one carrier’s specifications only to find they don’t meet the others. Again, having a neutral partner on your side can make the difference when it comes to wireless coverage solutions.

I remember when I first got into the industry. Every project was custom, new technology came out every week, and everywhere I turned there was another acronym. It was overwhelming at the time. I think this is where some property owners find themselves. When you pair up with the right partner, it makes the whole process simpler and just feels right.

3. What do you predict in the next 10 years for wireless system design?

I believe private cellular networks will continue growing and evolving through the availability of unlicensed/shared spectrum such as CBRS and C-Band to become a must-have solution for property owners.

Today, most private wireless networks use Wi-Fi. These systems have been and will continue to be a great offering in the enterprise space, especially with the number of compatible devices and the release of WiFi-6. However, these never seem to fully replace the need for cellular service. Cellular networks, such as those rooted in LTE, offer a higher level of security that traditional Wi-Fi cannot provide.

Property owners looking to deploy a cellular network have always been at the mercy of the wireless operators. Back-end service needs to be provided and devices require dedicated authentication through SIM cards. New devices, equipment, and spectrum options are beginning to place control back into the property owner’s hands. It allows the enterprise to freely deploy and operate that network, whether it be free or as a subscription-based service.

Additionally, controlling a network means you own the data, which opens the door to near-endless opportunities in analytics. Analytics and pay-to-play options provide to the potential for new revenue streams, which may in turn alter the endpoint of your design – meaning you may want additional applications running or, say, sensors to track assets / people as they move throughout the property.

4. How long have you been in wireless?

10 years.

I was introduced to Connectivity Wireless through a cooperative education program while still studying for my undergraduate degree. When I started, the projects we worked ranged from small retail stores to massive public venues. I had the opportunity to jump into multiple roles and gain different experiences. I designed systems, pulled cable, performed data walk tests, commissioned, you name it. Seeing all facets of the business and at the beginning of 4G, I became hooked.

As the years progressed, I jumped to get every certification or license I could find and stepped into various new roles with added responsibilities. I’ve continued to learn and be challenged, which is why Connectivity is still my home today. Of course, being part of a family-oriented organization gave it that homey touch that I felt couldn’t be beat. I’m a big proponent of introspection. Each time I analyze my career, the result leaves me pleased to still work at Connectivity Wireless.

5. Tell us about yourself

I was born and raised in the Atlanta area and graduated from Auburn University with an electrical engineering degree. I enjoy a good challenge, especially when others say it can’t be done. I remember plenty of times when the result turned out less than desirable, but those have been some of my greatest lessons. I live by the motto that there is no replacement for hard work. Life’s greatest rewards are those that require the greatest work. Or at least this what my wife and I tell ourselves as we raise a 3- and 5-year-old.

My wife, two kids, and I still live in the Atlanta area, but don’t be surprised to see us in Orlando visiting Disney World. The magic runs deep in our household. In fact, my hidden talent is a pretty spot on Mickey Mouse voice.

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