Wireless Usage Increases, Latest Technologies Demand New Infrastructure

Allen Dixon

No one can deny the use of cellular and other mobile wireless technology has dramatically increased over the past decade. But while technological advances in handsets and applications may benefit businesses, in many ways they also present building owners with new challenges.

Some of those hurdles are detailed in an upcoming report by wireless industry analyst Iain Gillott at iGR — a market strategy consultancy focused on the wireless and mobile communications industry — who surveyed class A and B building owners and managers about wireless and mobile use trends. According to the survey, 94 percent of building owners reported they could justify higher per-square-foot rental rates when they provided a system to support cellular connectivity inside the building.

According to the study, the increase in wireless usage came with an uptick in the number of complaints about the lack of adequate coverage inside buildings, which also cites would-be tenants’ growing propensity to research the quality of cellular coverage before committing to a lease.

Building owners and operators should take note that cellular wireless coverage is now on the list of important deciding factors for their business owner tenants. As wireless cellular technology becomes more advanced, they’ll need to take more proactive steps to provide sufficient connectivity. One of the best ways to ensure that connectivity is to install an all-fiber Distributed Antenna System (DAS).

The incoming 5G cellular wireless service promises to deliver more data with less delay, and it’s a safe bet tenants will demand reliable access to those signals. But improved capabilities will not mean an improvement in the 5G signal’s ability to penetrate buildings. Considering current 4G cellular signals often struggle to break through and tenants will be demanding the more capable signal, 5G will surely need help traveling from the outdoors to employees’ desks.

While some building and business owners are considering relying on Wi-Fi as an alternative to cellular coverage, the iGR report indicates building tenants actually prefer cellular coverage for various use cases. Chief among these use cases are security or pet cameras and personal banking.

Employees know many companies monitor their web traffic or block video streaming services, so they use cellular technology to circumnavigate those practices. When it comes to security or pet video streaming services, it’s becoming more common for employees to check up on their home by setting up tablets or other personal devices that leverage cellular connectivity.

Business owner tenants and their employees also value the security benefits of accessing their cellular networks instead of their company’s Wi-Fi — a choice they perceive as a safer, more secure route for personal information within their investment portfolios or online bank accounts.

Building owners and managers also report tenants have voiced a desire to support indoor cellular connectivity for the sake of hiring and retaining employees. The current talent marketplace is highly competitive. If a prospective employee visits a tenant’s office and notices difficulty accessing cellular services onsite, it could be a factor in accepting an offer.

Paying for the necessary infrastructure to support the new wireless standard and ensure indoor connectivity may feel like an unsought new requirement, but it is a worthwhile investment that will likely yield financial gains for building owners and tenants alike. Building owners will see less tenant attrition and more new leases, and business owners will see increased employee efficiency and morale. While better indoor connectivity will soon be tenants’ expectation, it’s already a quality they appreciate and consider a valuable asset to furthering their business.

Allen Dixon is senior director of marketing and partner programs at Zinwave.

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