Coverage first, everything else second, for in-building cellular investment
With businesses and consumers being bombarded by advertisements touting the advanced features enabled by 5G, and building owners trying to make sense of the diverse technologies that fit under the “smart building umbrella,” it’s important to remember that many commercial spaces can’t deliver on the baseline cellular use case–coverage.
Speaking to RCR Wireless News at a recent industry event, Nextivity’s Bruce York, director of carrier sales and development, stressed that the immediate, addressable opportunity is in commercial spaces ranging from 50,000-square-feet to 500,000-square-feet. Nextivity’s latest and greatest in the space is the Cel-Fi QUATRA 4000, which can be deployed off-air or connected to an RF signal source.
York walked us through his sales process and highlighted some of the primary considerations enterprise investors make when examining in-building solutions.
“There’s a lot of evangelization as to what options are available,” he said. “There’s just not one Band-Aid to solve all problems. Most customers don’t know whether they have a coverage problem or a capacity problem. To the end user, it all looks the same. The vast majority of our enterprise customers are using cellular for voice and text and they still have Wi-FI as backhaul for their data. Coverage is absolutely their first concern.”
So, to solve for coverage is the best bet to set up an off-air solution, capture signal from the macro network and distribute it around a building, or is it to work through carriers and their partners to secure an RF signal source like a small cell?
“The challenge there is usually the backhaul costs for most end customers,” York said. “You start running into a lot of logistical problems. We tell almost all our system integrators and end customers, you’re better served to go off-air first. You need to fix your coverage problem today. The second step is to address the capacity constraints. Once our Cel-Fi QUATRA system is installed…all you have to do is change the plumbing a little bit. That phased approach is quite valuable for both the market and the MNO.”
“Once you’ve solved your coverage problem,” he said, “you now have the door open for other innovations–you use it as an enabler.”
York likened the current addressable market opportunity to deep-sea exploration and some of the futuristic, buzzy technologies to space exploration.
“I look at 4G, 5G, all those evolutionary jumps that the carriers do to get the incremental improvements in capacity and performance, it’s like what NASA does to go to Mars and explore further-looking things. But where the more addressable revenue and opportunity is is in the in-building space. I equate that to like all of the resources and money opportunity we have in the deep ocean. It’s here, it’s right out of our reach, we just have to focus and address it. The global carrier market is primed for doing just that.”