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Home Real Estate News Commercial Proptech Journey: The Story of Cypress Waters

Proptech Journey: The Story of Cypress Waters

How Airwavz Solutions Enhanced Cypress Waters’ Connectivity to Make it World Class

Today, Cypress Waters is a spectacular 8-million square foot waterfront mixed-use development featuring commercial office, multi-family residential, retail, restaurants, concert and convention venues, and much more. A five-minute drive from DFW International Airport and an easy commute to the Dallas and Fort Worth metro areas, Cypress Waters’ corporate campus hosts the American headquarters of international conglomerates. An expected 20,000 residents and employees will be there by 2021. Among the many amenities that tenants enjoy are complimentary lunchtime shuttles to local restaurants and public art to dazzle the eye. And of course, the tenants and residents take for granted the development’s reliable cellular phone service, Wi-Fi in all common areas, and secure plug-and-play internet connectivity. But it wasn’t always that way.

Ten years ago, when Billingsley Company acquired the Coppell, Texas, property, it was just 1,000 empty acres of farmland adjacent to a picturesque lake—a vacant lot filled with nothing but potential.

Billingsley’s team knew from the start that tech would be a critical aspect of the new project. They wanted tech companies to locate there, and they wanted tech amenities for residential and commercial tenants. So along with the roads and other traditional utilities they’d have to build, they knew they would also need a solid infrastructure.

What they had, instead, was a single cell tower.

By 2014, Cypress Waters’ first phase had opened. Almost immediately, their tech infrastructure was overwhelmed.

“We realized pretty quickly that we needed to make some improvements, and fast,” recalled Ryan Lemaster, Billingsley’s Vice President of Information Technology.

The Billingsley team members knew it was time to call the experts at Airwavz Solutions.

A LAKESIDE FARMLAND’S TECH: CONCERNS FROM THE START

Founded in 1978, Billingsley Company is a property development and management firm with holdings in Dallas, Houston, and Chicago. With 8 million square footage in industrial space, 4.8 million square footage in office parks, and two other data center sites, the firm was well-versed in the needs of enterprise tenants. But Billingsley’s tech team was focused on establishing networks, traditional servers, and the like. From the outset, Cypress Waters’ requirements were centered on cellular service and Wi-Fi–and with them, a categorically different set of concerns.

First, cellular coverage was an issue from day one.

“Cypress Waters is in the middle of the metroplex, the (Dallas-Fort Worth) airport, but, on the other hand, it was 975 acres of undeveloped land,” recalled Lemaster. “There was one big macro tower site a few miles away, and that was supposed to provide service coverage for the 900 acres.”

Yet as tenants moved in to occupy the first buildings, they started having issues with connectivity. Tenants complained of poor coverage and weak signal strength in the buildings.

Soon after that, capacity issues were becoming a concern.

“The carriers weren’t really aware of how much new capacity we were going to create on their networks as we developed the property,” explained Lemaster.

Lemaster and his engineers also knew that, even if they could get the carriers to address the present issues, the problems could quickly resurface as Cypress Waters continued to expand. As long as the carriers determined the service they would (or wouldn’t) provide, the development was vulnerable.

Which led Lemaster and his team to consider how to take matters into their own hands—for example, by deploying an in-building wireless system across the Cypress Waters campus. But that was something that the existing staff would not have the resources, time, or experience to maintain on its own.

They realized that the answer to their connectivity issues was a different type of connection—bringing on Airwavz Solutions.

AIRWAVZ BRINGS CONNECTIVITY TO CYPRESS WATERS

The short version is that Airwavz Solutions is an in-building wireless connectivity company. The longer version is that Airwavz designs and builds technology infrastructure for commercial real estate owners like Billingsley, to provide a high-speed and cost-effective, wireless experience. To do this, Airwavz forms partnerships with both building owners and the wireless carriers themselves. The result is that they provide fast and sustainable connectivity solutions, customizable to a building owner’s and tenants’ needs. And once the technology is in place, Airwavz takes care of the maintenance—directly supplying tenants with responsive, dependable service.

Billingsley knew that Airwavz was the answer to Cypress Waters’ issues because Airwavz was already one of its long-term, trusted technology partners, having worked on several Billingsley’s other commercial properties.

“The real value in having such a consistent, long-term relationship with Billingsley is that we understand the challenges that they may currently be addressing, but we can also help plan for the future,” explained Airwavz Founder and President Mark Horinko.

The issue, according to Horinko, is that too many commercial real estate companies getting into wireless and other tech, hire a company for a oneand- done installation. Then, a few years down the road, if they decide to expand their services, or add a second phase to the development, the system may not be able to handle the new requirements. The system becomes effectively obsolete, so that company may need to rip almost everything out and start over.

“By contrast, when we have a long-term relationship with companies, like we have with Billingsley, we learn how they expand their developments and grow their businesses. And since we are on the ground, firsthand, we know the company’s tenants. So we understand the company’s business philosophy, and their tenants’ needs, and the intersection between the two.” Said Horinko. “In other words, we design a system for your business, and for how you do your business.”

For Cypress Waters, that meant that Airwavz began by creating a collaboration plan with Billingsley, one that aligned Billingsley’s vision for its tech services with a viable financial model.

At the time, the marketplace was experiencing a shift in the capital funding of in-building wireless networks. Historically, wireless carriers would fund 100% of capital cost associated with a wireless network; however, the economics of that funding approach was limiting the amount of properties that the carriers could improve in any given fiscal year.

Understanding this constraint, and after testing the marketplace for Billingsley, Airwavz recommended Cypress Waters use the building owner participation (“BOP”) model for its financial structure. This shift allowed Billingsley to better control the timeline of the property’s cellular enhancements, as well as support wireless carrier participation by subsidizing the business case.

Once the companies had agreed the BOP financial model would best align with Billingsley’s objectives, Airwavz started working on the tech itself.

Airwavz first took a look at Cypress Waters’ existing connectivity. The development had a partial campus connectivity plan in place with a private conduit system. But the system was limited to the development’s south side, intended only to serve Cypress Waters’ first three or four buildings. This wasn’t working for Billingsley and would not meet the individual needs of each carrier.

Airwavz gave Billingsley another option: to build upon its existing conduit system, expanding it across the entire Cypress Waters campus. Billingsley ran three sets of conduits—Airwavz provided two of them for the developer to use for its own future purposes. Airwavz also ran big fiber bundles through its conduit.

HOW AIRWAVZ INTRODUCED BILLINGSLEY TO FIBER AS A SERVICE

Airwavz’s installation of fiber was a game-changer, for Billingsley and Cypress Waters.

“Fiber is always the first foundation,” said Airwavz Chief Commercial Officer David Herran. “Even if we’re talking wireless, you have to start with that underlying fiber network. Whether it’s wireless services, wire line services all the way up the stack, you have to start with that physical layer.”

Billingsley did not need big fiber bundle runs, so Airwavz put two fiber pairs in each building. This modest run of fiber between the Cypress Waters buildings was enough to enhance bandwidth throughout the campus. And Airwavz’s installation also allowed Billingsley to have its own SD-LAN and provide Internet products to any Cypress Waters tenant.

With Airwavz’s redesign, Cypress Waters’ connectivity was more consistent, safer, and affordable.

While fiber has been key in Cypress Waters’ connectivity boost, Airwavz does not look to make fiber the focal point of a development’s network, but rather a piece of it. This allows Airwavz more flexibility in how it can support its customers. For example, if Airwavz comes across a market with a mature fiber riser marketplace, it can provide complementary service around it.

“Moving forward, fiber as a service is something we see as a flexible product,” added Airwavz Chief Revenue Officer Chris Zack. “It is certainly of value, but what makes fiber so unique in tech, is that it a scalable, and it’s an investment in infrastructure—one that will be there for 10 to 20 years.”

AIRWAVZ, BILLINGSLEY PARTNERSHIP IS A PARTNERSHIP FOR CYPRESS WATERS’ PRESENT AND FUTURE

Since its original work on the Cypress Waters project, Airwavz has continued its work with Billingsley. Airwavz is currently working on the fourth phase of connectivity at the development. As buildings are added to the Cypress Waters development, Airwavz negotiates the carriers’ services, expands the physical network, and provides maintenance.

And as Airwavz’s team looks to the future of the development, it also considers the future of the development’s tech: “We try to simplify the architecture, because we’re in a bit of an interesting time for the transition between 4G and 5G networks. The goal is to make that seamless transition for Billingsley’s tenants and the carriers,” Airwavz’s Herran explained. “Cypress Waters is a testament to the success that can be had when property owners, carriers and solutions providers like Airwavz, work collaboratively towards a common goal. This is truly a converged platform; therefore, everyone wins, right?”

Considering Airwavz’s contributions to the success of Cypress Waters, Lemaster said, “As far as in-building installation, Airwavz has been very accommodating of whatever our management teams have asked for or requested. They have jumped through every hoop we have asked them to, and we’ve thrown plenty at them.”

While Billingsley’s leadership speaks glowingly about the quality of Airwavz’s work at Cypress Waters, the Airwavz team has equally high praise for Billingsley.

“Company owner Lucy Billingsley is a visionary,” said Lisa Lane, Airwavz’s Director of Business Development, Dallas-Fort Worth. “She understands that in-building cell phone coverage isn’t going to be optional one day—everyone’s going to have to have it. Their team understands the value of wireless, for the tenants and themselves. The goal isn’t about making money for Billingsley. Instead, they know it is about customer and tenant satisfaction.”

That is something that they have achieved by being one of the first mixed-use properties of this magnitude to successfully implement a comprehensive network solution

At the beginning, Cypress Waters’ wireless was defined more by its outages than its operation. But that is all in its past.

According to Lemaster, “We’ve had no real issues or outages since they put the service in. The buildings that have been lit up for carriers are getting four and five bars and we’re not getting any complaints.”

If there was any doubt that those days, and those radios, were long gone, it was settled in 2018. That is when international telecom giant Nokia announced that it would be moving its North American manufacturing headquarters into Cypress Waters.

Nokia now occupies 350,000 square feet of the corporate campus; its work is centered on research and innovation. It’s an amazingly fitting end, and new beginning, to the story of Cypress Waters.

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