5G investments will make broadband connectivity more useful than ever, but should building owners be worried about how much of the cost they must bear?
As the forecasts for 5G deployments become more bullish, I’ve read an increasing number of articles questioning the role that building owners will have to play. Part and parcel to this question is an undercurrent of worry on the part of building owners that past investments in DAS technology and other schemes to increase the quality of connectivity in their building(s) will be rendered obsolete. In fairness, the pace to wireless development has always been something that people writing checks for infrastructure solutions have worried about. 3G investments were initially dampened by the fear that they would strand investment in 2G networks. The same concerns applied when LTE was first coming to market.
So, as building owners are being asked to shoulder more of the financial burden for equipping their buildings to participate in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, their concerns about investment protections should not be taken lightly. At the the same time, one good reason for building owners to put down the proverbial Mylanta when it comes to infrastructure investments into their buildings is that 5G is about much more than the plumbing.
If 5G is more about the ultra broadband experience than the bearer technology, then building owner investments should be safe
For the 5G promise to be fully realized, connectivity will become infinitely more complex. So, with all due respect to the notion of 5G as a replacement for existing connectivity solutions, there will simply be no way to enable a ubiquitous, ultra low-latency, ultra-high throughput experience without an all hands on deck approach to the network. Why? Because 5G will be about supporting use cases, not just throughput speeds. It will be about a mix of supporting dumb IoT sensors, smart building automation systems, AR/VR, real-time critical communications systems, securing sensitive locations, while also enabling unfettered access to previously gated areas of a building. In short, it will be about customizing a digital experience for an almost endless iteration of needs.
In a commercial real estate scenario, the need to propagate signals will be challenged by a myriad of factors including the age of the building, the materials used in construction, the needs of a potentially diverse tenant base, and physical location just to name a few. This will mean equipping a building with fiber-fed DAS, small cells, WiFi, LPWAN, and more in both licensed and unlicensed spectrum. In some cases, many, if not all, of these technologies will have to co-exist.
We’ve already heard mobile network operators say that IoT and 5G networking requirements will make it impossible for them to shoulder all of the financial burden a ubiquitous 5G network build-out. In plain language that means that they are looking to building owners to pitch in to help properly equip their properties. It also means that while building owners will potentially have to spend more out of their own pockets to ensure 5G connectivity, it will also buy them increasing influence with the network operators in terms of what gets deployed in their building, and how it is done.
In short, if building owners want to ensure that their properties are properly equipped to participate in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, they must embrace the requirements for a full-fledged 5G network in their buildings. As part of this, they should not shy away from investments in a right-sized mix of whatever technologies will be required to make it happen.