By 2020, large-scale 5G commercial deployments are expected to begin and they make their way across the U.S. Building owners will need to adequately prepare for costs related to bringing 5G in-building and enabling best-in-class tenant experiences.
Addressing cellular infrastructure needs for the small to mid-size (SME) enterprise market has become increasingly challenging as the cost burden for in-building systems is shifting away from carriers and falling squarely on the shoulders of building owners.
While carriers are willing to subsidize enterprise solutions for large-scale DAS solutions mostly in stadiums, train stations and other large public spaces, the ROI for SME installation is not always sufficient to justify the costs.
“5G isn’t going to be a silver bullet but it will create a wireless ecosystem which will play a role in delivering a new connectivity experience,” said Jeremy Edalgo, director of sales of Wireless Infrastructure Services at McKinstry, which has been designing, constructing and operating high-performing buildings for more than a five decades.
McKinstry’s network infrastructure services group designs turn-key DAS, WLAN and other RAN related wireless services and solutions for enterprise customers, carriers and developers.
Edalgo says that while the company is seeing a greater interest from customers regarding enabling a 5G connectivity experience, there is no industry standard for how to create it and many buildings today are not even fully optimized for 4G/LTE.
“In-building systems still need to be brought up to the 4G standards and need to have MIMO systems and bridge connections with faster data throughputs,” Edalgo said.
Eliminating redundant costs for 5G network improvements
One of the primary means of controlling the costs of bringing 5G in-building is to eliminate the need for redundant infrastructure by pushing active components to the edge. To achieve this goal more building owners are opting for systems which use a combination of small cells and DAS.
“That’s the model we are seeing from enterprise customers because it covers a wide range of building types from multi-residential, mixed and office spaces,” Edalgo said.
Using small cells as a signal source can add more value especially as DAS systems start to evolve and push active components to the edge which enables in-building systems to better manage the RF environment than what is provided by traditional antenna systems.
McKinstry aggregates several carrier-specific small cells from each carrier to the head end of a DAS to provide a robust connectivity infrastructure. Advantages of this model include faster deployment times and lower costs because small cells are quicker and cheaper to deploy compared with a DAS base station from a carrier.
To manage the increasing costs of bringing 5G in-building, more owners using pay-as-a-service models, which reduce their CAPEX costs and enable them to budget expenses for OPEX, said Louis Levy who leads the Wireless Infrastructure Business unit at McKinstry.
Levy says that while more Fortune 100 customers are becoming interested in outlining a technology roadmap towards smart buildings the value proposition from improving cellular service of occupants to improve ROI is more clear when compared to reaping benefits from IoT-based connected devices through 5G.
“People get why they want to monitor things inside of buildings, but how this is all going to work remains uncertain. It’s not an easy an answer as putting a DAS system in, CBRS which may enable Private LTE networks for the convergence of IoT sensors may be the best option but those standards still need to solidify,” said Louis.