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COVER STORY-The three most asked questions from CRE leaders about in-building connectivity – SOLiD

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TOP 3 QUESTIONS CRE LEADERS ARE ASKING TODAY ABOUT IN-BUILDING WIRELESS

Commercial Real Estate (CRE) executives are more concerned than ever about in-building wireless services. Guests are frustrated. Tenants are unhappy. Solutions providers can be confusing. Operators can be challenging. 4G LTE and 5G technology can be expensive. And all this while wireless technology is rapidly changing. In this article, I’ll address the top three questions regarding in-building wireless technology I’ve been asked by CRE executives recently.

These questions are the ones asked by commercial real estate executives such as building owners, in-building IT decision makers and a variety of people responsible for good cell phone signal inside a building.

Those executives all agree that for tenants, cell phone connectivity is no longer an amenity, it’s a mandatory service offering. The CRE decision makers are trying to address tenants’ needs today and tomorrow. Let’s discuss these three questions one at a time:

1 What applications are ready for 5G for inside my building?

2 How should I plan for 5G for my building?

3 Why should I consider Private LTE or CBRS?

1 WHAT APPLICATIONS ARE READY FOR 5G FOR INSIDE MY BUILDING?

The short answer is that we are in the early stages of 5G deployment, and applications are being developed now. There are very few exclusively built for 5G. There are prototype applications built for 5G, but very few have been rolled out. The ones that we’ll see first are data-focused ones, oriented to performing tasks or monitoring building status, such as environmental conditions or security-related activities. Other early applications may include robotics in industrial applications.

Working for a Korean-based company, we’ve had the opportunity to see what’s happening with 5G in Korea, which tends to be an early adopter of technology and applications. Even in that country, there are not any deployed, custom-designed 5G applications. Operators are just beginning to focus on 5G for in-building. Still, that focus is on speed, coverage and capacity. According to a recent Korea Times article:

“SK Telecom said Wednesday it has completed the development of the ‘5GX In-building Solution’ that is capable of doubling the speed of 5G data transfer inside buildings and effectively dispersing data traffic to prevent overload on base stations in crowded areas such as shopping malls and subway stations.”

SK Telecom, KT and LG Uplus, which have been in cutthroat competition to improve the quality of their fifth-generation (5G) network services, are now in a race to boost 5G data speeds inside buildings.

Their move comes amid growing complaints over disappointing 5G network coverage since the next-generation mobile network services were launched in early April.

SK Telecom said Wednesday it has completed the development of the “5GX In-building Solution” that is capable of doubling the speed of 5G data transfer inside buildings and effectively dispersing data traffic to prevent overload on base stations in crowded areas such as shopping malls and subway stations.

There is no doubt that 5G will be a required service within buildings in the next few years. The decisions today should focus on short-term, medium-term and long-term goals of building owners or tenants. And looking at those goals, CRE executives are focusing on how current technology such as 4G LTE delivers value and how to prepare for 5G.

Of course, 5G subscriber usage in a building is directly dependent on 5G handset adoption. In Korea the trend is adoption of 5G in a steady aggressive way as shown in this table:

South Korea 5G Service Subscriber Trend

As this subscriber trend grows, demand for applications will grow. Some of the key applications being developed are grouped as shown below:

Smart Office

• IOT Sensors

• Mobile office

• Security

• Artificial Intelligence (AI) apps

Smart Factory

• Remote control

• AI analysis for CCTV

• Augmented Reality

Smart City

• HDE CCTV video/image analysis (AI)

• Connected car

• IOT sensors

Remote medical

• Checkup exam

• Operation / exam

Teleconferencing

• High definition

• Real-time interaction — no latency

It bears repeating; there are prototype applications built for 5G, but very few have been rolled out. Keep an eye out. I think we’ll see some interesting applications in the coming years.

2 HOW SHOULD I DEVELOP A PLAN FOR 5G FOR MY BUILDING?

When it comes to 5G wireless connectivity, it’s important to distinguish between what is possible today and what you’ll need tomorrow. Ongoing improvements in 4G LTE technology will maintain its relevance for years to come. Keep in mind that it’s possible for 4G LTE and 5G to coexist during any transition.

To prepare for the future, create a 5G roadmap with clearly defined goals. Understand the expectations of your current and future tenants. You’ll want to be clear about your enterprise’s 5G timing. I recommend that you create a strategic plan. This should include short-term (next 18 months), mid-term (18-36 months) and long-term (4-5 years) goals. Your goals should reflect the fact that widespread 5G deployments lie years into the future. Still, if you want to offer prospective tenants a competitive mix of amenities, you need a progressive plan.

So, what to do today?

Solicit advice from a trusted wireless advisor who can help you build a plan. The plan should have these four pillars:

1 4G/5G: plan for 600 MHz to 39 GHz today; for 5G tomorrow plan for 6HZ to 39 GHz, be sure your supplier can supply this infrastructure and has a long-term roadmap to supply, service and support you.

2 Plan on fiber to the edge for 5G, WiFi 6, IOT and CCTV applications. Build your fiber infrastructure today. Pull extra fiber, because fiber will be used for applications today and tomorrow.

3 Open, standard s-based solutions: Keep in touch with new lower-cost,smaller-footprint solutions. Think long term for open, virtualized solutions based on standards from organizations such as the O-Ran Alliance (www.o-ran.org/)

4 Public Safety: Look for a provider who has a long, successful reputation in supplying public safety solutions. Public safety begins with your commercial DAS and extends into repeaters and other PS solutions.

3 WHY SHOULD I CONSIDER PRIVATE LTE OR CBRS?

For the short term, consider that Private LTE already delivers data usage savings, enhanced security and better traffic flow. Long term, the allure of 5G is undeniable. First, it is anywhere from 10 to 100 times faster than LTE 4G. Second, it dramatically increases connection density.

Increasing needs will drive the evolution of private LTE and 5G wireless networks. Consider the many demands on private wireless networks in the future:

• More mobile devices on-premises

• Increased HD video streaming

• IoT requirements

• Security needs, including wireless access cards

• Data-intensive applications requiring enhanced security

“4G is here today and can solve many problems, and it will for many years. 5G is coming and will solve problems too and has the promise of some interesting applications — none of which are deployed today.

Private LTE & CBRS: New Opportunities

As we discuss private wireless networks deployed in commercial real estate buildings, it’s important to define terms:

Private LTE networks serve individual enterprises, educational institutions and government entities. Regular mobile carriers operate some, while third-party operators (3PO) run others. Some use licensed spectrum; others use unlicensed spectrum.

Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) occupies a 150 MHz-wide band of the spectrum. For many years, it was mostly used by the U.S. Navy’s radar systems. Although this will continue, unused portions are now available for commercial use.

CBRS offers CRE owners/managers a new path to effective wireless coverage. For many, CBRS is the next big thing that they haven’t really heard about yet. It provides a way to deploy private 5G networks without costly spectrum licenses. Since a CBRS-based network is not aligned with any single carrier, third-party installation and operation is an option.

As of 2018, CBRS became a viable in-building wireless option. When it comes to commercial venues, CBRS is an amazing opportunity for building owners.

CBRS offers key advantages. First, it addresses the limitations posed by carrier licenses. With traditional licensing arrangements, whoever controlled the license controlled the spectrum. By contrast, CBRS-based LTE solutions support all four carriers: Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint and AT&T. They will support future operators as well. Second, it delivers attractive economics for mobile coverage/capacity. Third, the wide 150 MHz shared spectrum delivers 1.5-gigabit theoretical 5G speeds. CBRS will allow for “dedicated lanes” devoted to specialized needs. Fourth, a CBRS-based system gives venue owners access to valuable data analytics.

For more about CBRS and 5G, check out the video, “Commercial Real Estate is Changing, Are You Still A Rated.” (.) It includes a discussion I had with Rich Berliner, founder of Connected/RE magazine.

Berliner observes that “amenities are everything” in today’s commercial real estate market. Building owners must deliver the kind of connectivity that tenants and their employees expect. When it comes to wireless network upgrades, he says, “Don’t wait, that’s the important message in commercial real estate.” Still, Berliner believes that wide-spread private 5G is a few years out yet. Availability of 5G phones is one key factor.

SUMMARY

THE CRE technology landscape is changing rapidly, particularly as it relates to 4G/5G wireless coverage, capacity and planning. As expectations rise among tenants and guests, CRE decision makers are trying to navigate how to deal with the solutions for today and tomorrow. New technologies such as 5G and CBRS are being introduced. What are they and will they help? 4G is here today and can solve many problems, and it will for many years. 5G is coming and will solve problems too and has the promise of some interesting applications — none of which are deployed today.

CRE decision makers should continue to educate themselves on available solutions, engage a trusted adviser, build a plan and stay connected to a rapidly changing wireless technology environment.

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