Prioritizing The Fourth Utility: Q/A With Doug Lodder On In-Building Wireless Connectivity & 5G

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Video streaming, social networks, cloud computing and the app economy have created a seismic shift in the way people live and work. Smartphones, tablets and wearables are now front-and-center, which has led to the rise of the “fourth utility”—aka wireless connectivity—and the demand for advanced network solutions that can deliver seamless mobile coverage to tenants and operational value to owners. DisruptCRE asked Boingo SVP of Business Development Doug Lodder to share a few insights on building connectivity and how smart Fourth Utility strategies can give properties a competitive edge.  

Doug, tell us about Boingo and its role in CRE.

For over 15 years, Boingo has been bringing leading cellular and Wi-Fi service to consumers around the world at locations like New York’s Oculus/World Trade Center and Chicago’s Merchandise Mart. Our suite of Distributed Antenna System (DAS), small cell and Wi-Fi solutions brings connectivity to life, whether you’re on the top floor of a bustling city skyscraper or the back office of a sprawling convention center.

Convergence is the cornerstone of Boingo’s business strategy and key to future-proofing in-building wireless deployments. This is where we merge licensed, or cellular networks, with unlicensed—Wi-Fi—to give buildings more throughput, reduced latency, better coverage and lower costs. The end result is not only a great connected experience for tenants and guests, but smarter buildings that can see reduced operating costs and increased NOI.

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“We have arrived at a tipping point for connectivity. Real estate owners, REITs and property managers can rise or fall based on their ability to deliver seamless wireless coverage because connectivity is now like people’s oxygen.”

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What wireless trends do CRE professionals need to be mindful of?

We have arrived at a tipping point for connectivity. Real estate owners, REITs and property managers can rise or fall based on their ability to deliver seamless wireless coverage because connectivity is now like people’s oxygen. Mobile devices are the lifelines to work, family and friends, entertainment, travel, you name it—making the Fourth Utility of wireless broadband a priority. And the utility isn’t just required for a dedicated unit, it’s necessary for amenity areas, corridors, garages and any retail space that occupies a building.

Nearly every industry is impacted by this digital-first era, causing a significant spike in mobile data consumption. Cisco forecasts that global mobile data will increase sevenfold by 2021, with more than 40 percent year-over-year growth. Can you think of another solution or offering within the CRE space that is seeing this level of growth? Mobile is driving the future, requiring a fresh approach to a property’s in-building network deployment.

How can buildings solve the mobile data crunch?

To please tenants now and in the future, owners and developers should partner with managed service providers to design and deploy flexible and scalable wireless solutions like DAS, small cells and Wi-Fi in coordination with Tier One wireless carriers. By outsourcing to experts, the daunting task of building and launching the right network is removed, allowing in-house IT to focus on other business matters.

When navigating a new network strategy, be mindful that the benefits go far beyond the B2C angle of happy tenants. The Fourth Utility is at the heart of building automation, which can positively influence a property’s overall value and minimize day-to-day costs. Environments that focus on the Fourth Utility can easily adapt to changing business needs or new facility requirements. For example, take a look at the Internet of Things (IoT). IoT is predicted to disrupt CRE and maximize efficiencies with intelligent building innovations like smart HVAC systems, lighting, parking management and more. To stay ahead in the IoT age, the Fourth Utility is a must.

Zeroing in on the network’s blueprint, densification is crucial. Buildings can no longer rely on cellular towers that are miles away to meet in-building connectivity demands. This is where DAS and small cells come into play for CRE properties as they bring wireless coverage closer to the end user by deploying small antennas and integrating them into a cohesive cellular network. The solutions are universal in a range of indoor buildings, whether new construction, aging historic buildings or modern architectural structures.

Outside of cellular, Wi-Fi can be a network’s workhorse for supplying more bandwidth and faster speeds. Approximately 80 percent of data consumption is on Wi-Fi so it should never be overlooked. Building owners and property managers can get the most from their Wi-Fi networks by installing Access Points (APs) that support speed, density, security encryption and device flexibility.  

Everyone is talking about 5G. How does that impact our industry?

5G is the next and newest wireless standard that is being built to keep up with the proliferation of mobile devices and mobile data growth. It represents a giant leap forward in connectivity and will usher in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, where billions of people and billions of things will be connected with unprecedented processing power, storage capacity and speed. Artificial intelligence, autonomous cars, connected cities, smart buildings and more will all be a new reality with 5G.

New frequency bands, higher data rates and advanced transmission technologies will allow 5G to operate up to 100 times faster than today’s standards and provide four times the coverage. To accommodate these features, buildings will need to upgrade wireless networks with higher capacity, hyper-dense network designs that leverage converged DAS, small cells and Wi-Fi solutions.

Boingo has a long history of overseeing successful upgrade cycles, as we’ve moved our networks from 2G to 3G and 3G to 4G. 5G will be no different. The standard is expected to start rolling out as early as this year and we will proactively work with Tier One carriers to bring the standard to venues where Boingo manages the network.  

What about CBRS?

CBRS fits in perfectly with Boingo’s converged network solutions. It stands for Citizens Broadband Radio Service and is a U.S.-based initiative that dynamically allocates 3.5 GHz spectrum on demand to anyone for their exclusive use. In CRE, think of it as another piece of carrier-grade spectrum that we can deploy in buildings to deliver coverage and solve the mobile data crunch. It’s ideal for CRE properties that have a managed neutral-host network, as companies like Boingo can rely on the shared LTE-based CBRS technology to address capacity challenges.  

Meet Boingo at DisruptCRE New York on March 29

Is your property’s wireless network ready to take on the future? Stop by Boingo’s booth at DisruptCRE to learn how better connectivity leads to happier tenants.