HomeDAS & In Building WirelessWhat Property Owners Really Need to Know About In-Building Wireless System Construction

What Property Owners Really Need to Know About In-Building Wireless System Construction

Featuring Connectivity Wireless’ VP of Deployment, Howard Keel

1. What is one thing you really wish property owners new about in-building wireless system construction?

When it comes to any in-building wireless system project, I have found that there are three key elements that are critical to making all of the cogs and moving parts work together seamlessly and successfully. First, is having a specialized in-building wireless integration team to run the project from start to finish. Second, is proper planning and design started on day one. Last, and least obvious, is the value of leveraging the customer’s preferred and trusted contractor partners for wireless system construction.

I believe other members of my team have already spoken to the importance of the first two aspects in past features, so I’m going to lean into the third. Simply put, employing our customer’s approved contractors, who not only have their trust but also have experience and knowledge working in their building, streamlines the construction process, therefore, saving time and money in the long run.

Using contractor partners that know the facility can turn a very complicated project into a smooth sailing endeavor. The decision to use a customer approved/preferred can literally mean success versus failure.

By working with your existing contractor partners, we are able to shave down the construction time and cost of your system in the long.

2. What advice do you have for property managers and building engineers to make the construction process as easy as possible?

Assuming that the above three are fulfilled, the project should run pretty smoothly. I’ll expand on each to provide some clarity and understanding that, I hope, will serve you well in your next wireless system installation project.

Selecting an Integration Partner – When selecting an integration partner, make sure you are dealing with a company that is knowledgeable and transparent about all the facets of a new wireless system. I highly recommend you spend some time vetting your integration partner by asking for references and examples of past installs as well as asking key questions, such as:

• How many in-building wireless (IBW) installs has your company completed and what is the square footage?
• Do you have experience in my type of venue? (e.g., class-A office space)
• Do you outsource the design, installation, and commissioning or employ all of these team members in-house?
• Can you share some of the certifications your design engineers and construction team members have?
• What IBW OEM wireless manufacturers are you certified to install?
• Do you have experience working with the carriers directly?
• How do you plan to design my network today for future capabilities and expansion?

The right integration partner will have significant experience related to your venue type, be certified by all major wireless OEMs, have a dedicated carrier-coordination team (with proof of success), a strong in-house staff of RF design and performance engineers, highly experienced project managers, and specialized construction managers and technicians. The experience level of each of these teams and their familiarity with working together will contribute to the integrator’s ability to deliver a seamless project.

The next two aspects hinge on having an experienced IBW integration partner.

Planning and Design

Just as the right design is critical to the performance of an in-building wireless system, planning is everything when it comes to the successful construction of these systems. An experienced integration partner will engage you in the planning process from day one, guiding and advising you through each decision point to minimize disruption to your tenants and daily building operations, and reduce the footprint of the project construction.

It’s worth mentioning that installing an in-building wireless system is not the same as other low-voltage network projects. In addition to what is needed for a standard low voltage installation, the requirements for general head-end construction, HVAC, electrical, and fire control systems turns these types of projects into fully vetted, permitted, A&E design/build initiatives covering all aspects of construction.

IBW projects are much more complex, not just from a design perspective, but from a legal perspective (with securing carrier relicensing agreements) and because of the intricacies of the physical installation. Whether you’re installing a new in-building wireless solution or upgrading an existing system, you’re going to want a partner who has done this before. Several times. Successfully.

Leverage Preferred Contractors

When possible, it is to the benefit of the project and teams involved to leverage your existing trade partners because, in the long run, it streamlines the construction of your system and has the potential to cut down the installation time.

Why? It’s simple: Your contractors know your building. We can leverage these contractors even during the design phases. To bring in a contractor who is unfamiliar with space means that the design and the installation take longer.

To support our in-house wireless installation team (construction managers, performance engineers, and specialized technicians), key trades that are needed for the project include general contractors for construction, electricians, mechanical contractors, drywall and painting contractors.

Assuming that you have partners in each of these areas who have already performed work at your property, the project timeline is shortened because you are able to reduce the time needed to train and familiarize new groups with the property layout, existing facilities, and access protocols.

Keep in mind, however, that this may not always be feasible or the best option for all trade aspects of the project, in which cases the integration partner should advise as such. But when possible, it benefits everyone involved.

When each of these key elements is at play, you will have a quality experience throughout the whole IBW construction process.

3. What will be different 5-10 years down the road in the construction of in-building wireless systems than how it is today? Why will it be different?

As we look toward the future and all the demands for private applications, the wireless industry will continue to boom with all of the new technologies being unveiled. Private networks will be in demand by property owners due to the new CBRS platforms that are just beginning to roll out today. With today’s smart building technology, we are already benefitting from IoT-enabled infrastructure.

These private networks will integrate not only DAS, but include systems for building mechanical, parking, public safety, fire control, asset tracking, intelligent lighting, etc., each of which may involve multiple parties on the front-end of a project. In the future, you will not only be working with carriers but with various smart technology application providers as well.

Looking at this from a practical standpoint, the construction process will require more upfront planning and collaborative design time with smart technology application providers to integrate the technologies into the core network infrastructure most efficiently.

Core wireless network planning in the design phase will be more paramount than ever (as opposed to piece-mealing various technologies together). The active components will change as technologies change, but a properly designed fiber infrastructure will be critical to establishing a plug-and-play, evergreening network.

My best recommendation is that you will want a central wireless integration partner who can provide the future-proof infrastructure, manage the relationships and oversee the integrations while measuring and contemplating the impact to the core network so that you can ensure optimal performance of your system for years to come.

4. How long have you been in wireless?

I have been in the wireless industry for 11.5 years and have been in the telecommunications industry for 33 years.

After high school, I pursued an education in business administration. In 1987 I moved to the Atlanta area where I started my telecommunications journey. While working as a low voltage installer, I continued my education and received my telecommunications associate degree.

For the next 22 years, I designed and built voice and data networks to include new technologies before coming to the wireless industry. Throughout my career, I have served in many positions, including construction management, field supervision, and quality assurance management, which led to my current role in overseeing the construction process of our wireless networks at Connectivity Wireless. I’ve been with the company for 11.5 years.

As VP of deployment at Connectivity, I lead construction teams from site survey and design through bidding processes, planning, and the installation phases of wireless network solutions, including managing a large team of deployment managers and construction managers. Regardless of the groups I’ve managed and the various positions I’ve held over the years, I see it as my job to ensure quality wireless network installations across the nation.

Over the course of my career, I have been involved in more than 2,700 wireless network installs, providing 300+ million square feet of wireless coverage. To this day, I am still fascinated by the industry’s constant growth and changes. It is never dull, and every day presents something new and exciting.

5. Tell us about yourself

I was born and raised in North Carolina. I have always been the type of individual that appreciates hard work. There is something about putting in a hard day’s work, and at the end of the day, standing back and admiring what you have accomplished. I try to live by the motto, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” I feel this is a very important lesson in life, but also relates to business as well.

My wife, Sherri, and I have been married for 26 years and have a daughter named Mackenzie. I enjoy golfing, fishing, hunting, and traveling with my family.

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