Broadband connectivity, both wired and wireless, is now akin to a utility in its importance for building owners and the tenants they want to attract. So what are building owners looking for in the technologies they want in their buildings?
“What we’re seeing is a couple of different dynamics going on,” Greg Spraetz, SVP of real estate for ExteNet Systems, told In-Building Tech.
One of those, he said, is a continuing transition to in-building cellular coverage, which has been gaining importance with building owners and continues to do so — even though there is a lack funding for in-building projects from mobile network operators, he said. Distributed antenna systems can be prohibitively expensive for building owners, given he said, and although they are neutral-host, often carriers and building owners may want to deploy “different technology in those buildings that could be more tailored or specific to them, and something that is more economical.” Meanwhile, building owners are also looking for wireless connectivity options that can scale to add more modules or bands as needed, he added — and since they increasingly have to fund connectivity projects themselves they are trying to figure out what to invest in, in order to get top-dollar for their spaces and keep them full.
“Building owners are seeing that key tenants are coming in and asking for these things: what kind of wireless coverage do you have? What carriers are on it? What can you guarantee?” Spraetz said. He added that tenants are more interested in the details of fiber deployments than they used to be: from the type of fiber connection available to how many entrances/exits there are from the building and whether they are on different sides. That information is important to resiliency and availability for enterprise networks and cloud services, he noted: if there is a fiber cut that impacts one side or exit, traffic can still be re-routed as long as there is another that is still available. Tenants also increasingly want to know more details on where a building’s fiber connects to various large data centers for access to their cloud providers, he added.
So building owners are considering not just whether they have fiber assets, he said, but what fiber carriers are on those networks and who they might want: Zayo, CenturyLink and others, for example, and which ones their competitors are supporting.
While building owners are interested in what wired and wireless assets will attract tenants, they’re also seeking to leverage that infrastructure to connect multiple buildings for their own corporate IT networks.
In the case of multiple buildings, Spraetz said, the internet of things-related opportunities — such as connecting multiple HVAC, sensor systems, utilities, digital signage and surveillance — become more practical and cost-efficient, while fiber connectivity between those buildings is necessary to carry high-speed, real-time data such as video streams from security cameras. The more that building owners can put in systems that monitor and operate without human touch, he said, the more that they can drive down maintenance costs.
“Building owners are looking more and more at how I future-proof, or how do I position my building to be more of a smart building?” Spraetz said. That includes consideration of technologies ranging from the Citizens Broadband Radio Service to eventually, cellular 5G; and the installation of DAS versus small cells versus distributed Radio Access Network architectures and their relationship to the macro cellular network. While there is interest in 5G, Spraetz added, he sees the interest in fiber deployment coming first to enable them — and then the ecosystem will have to figure out how all of those various technologies, as well as new and legacy Wi-Fi systems, play together over time.
Spraetz said that ExteNet sees an opportunity for building owners to market its technology infrastructure connectivity not just in terms of touting good wireless in-building coverage, but their overall connectivity portfolio offered in a particular building or network of buildings.
“When we put fiber in the risers, we’re working with [building owners] to put it on their portal and market this to their tenants, and let people who are interested in coming in, know what you have,” he said. “You’re solving more of the problems for the tenants coming in.”