Cellular service is often dubbed the “fourth utility.” Alongside running water, gas and electricity, cellular service is an assumed provision in major cities everywhere.
Building occupants expect 24/7 connectivity where they spend most of their time—at work. As much as 80 percent of cellular usage occurs within buildings today. Yet as 5G becomes a reality in 2020, this basic utility could be harder to achieve.
Leveraging 5G can help attract and retain premium tenants in today’s high-rise commercial office building. It can increase property valuation and provide a strong enabling foundation to “future-proof” your intelligent building. The 5G network takes a triple approach to improving mobility—speed (ultra-fast data rates), interactivity (ultra-low lag with no buffering) and connectivity (more capacity, devices and data).
Get your building 5G-ready today
Building owners and operators should begin evaluating their properties’ infrastructure and readiness today. Follow this five-step road map to prepare for 5G.
Step 1: Conduct an assessment
Base building owners/operators should assess the building’s existing cellular enhancement system/Distributed Antenna System (DAS), infrastructure and distribution if any, including pathways and risers. If you don’t have a system in place, plan and identify spaces required for additional anticipated equipment, risers and pathways.
Building tenants should consider lease evaluations and conduct building property assessments before negotiating a contract. Enterprise tenants relying heavily on mobility and BYOD will want to make sure they have the necessary coverage and infrastructure in place ahead of 5G rollout.
Step 2: Benchmark building frequency
Commission a study of the radio frequency environment of the property and identify state of coverage, signal strength, quality and service limitations. This will require you to walk routes inside and outside and utilize scanners to collect signal data at various frequencies for each service provider and cellular technology. Because service providers operate on different frequencies, test all relevant channels and desired services. Benchmark study results will be captured as a map superimposed atop building floor plans, with the state of coverage on every floor and in every location.
Step 3: Get a design on paper
Design a preliminary wireless system concept. Create a computer-simulated digital indoor model of the building, including areas of desired coverage. Keep in mind that cellular enhancement is a physical system with cables and antennas that will be routed and placed throughout the building. Identify upgrades, headend, distribution, end devices and supporting infrastructure that might be required.
Step 4: Evaluate and select solution providers
Using your concept design and simulated model, gather competitive bids from solution providers. Select the most appropriate solution to meet facility requirements. Use a credible solution provider to help you engage in negotiations with carriers to enhance your facility’s cellular service.
Step 5: Time to implement
At this final stage, infrastructure, hardware modifications, system installations and functional testing will be completed. Once the system is integrated and tied in with the cellular network effectively, perform final commissioning, data collection and share live numbers with carriers. Resist the urge to just install and roll out! Testing and commissioning the system post implementation is critical.
Some 5G roadblocks are still stopping digital traffic
Before you roll out the 5G red carpet, it’s important to remember that there may still be a few roadblocks in the way. When these roadblocks exist in your facility, occupants will feel like they’re walking at a snail’s pace in the office but teleporting the minute they step out.
Where reliable 4G service is a current concern, 5G service most likely won’t even be available. Don’t expect 5G to solve 4G problems. Most carriers are targeting a much higher frequency spectrum than current 4G networks, which will not travel as far or penetrate materials well, like glass and walls. For this reason, tenants who have good 4G coverage today could still experience poor 5G coverage tomorrow. Target issue areas within your facility if this applies.
Some existing coaxial-based DAS installations may not be able to migrate to 5G and transmit at the required higher frequencies or have cost-effective 5G scalability. Work with your facility’s DAS consultant and solution providers for relief.
Once a luxury and now a basic need, the best cellular service available is as central to your facility and business today as any other municipal utility. Getting your facility 5G ready will be a sound business decision and an important step in ensuring a properties’ long-term valuation as well as a steppingstone in digitally transforming your built environment portfolio in 2020.
About the author
Mo Fahim is a Practice Leader, Intelligent Buildings, Environmental Systems Design, Inc. His expertise in ICT design, MEP project management and construction management brings added value to solving complex problems through technology-driven solutions. Areas of focus include built environment transformation, connected workplace and intelligent buildings, with a vision to create happier people-centric communities through digital solutions and smart connected infrastructure.