In this technology-driven age, the world has become a “bring your own device” environment. Wireless connectivity is paramount as the masses, and now even businesses, rely on cell phones and other personal, portable devices for daily operations. This dependence on bringing your own device (BYOD) has begun to influence the work environment, creating a growth in co-working and flexible, shared workspace strategies that are designed to capitalize on employees’ devices. Now, shared workspace providers are more popular than ever, creating 35 percent of U.S. leasing activity. The global number of co-working spaces is expected to nearly triple by 2022, and with these millions of communal workspace enterprises come increased demands for a backbone of reliable in-building wireless connectivity. Seamless and total connectivity is now a requirement, not an option. As a result, enterprises like these are searching for new avenues to fund and deploy necessary carrier and distributed antenna systems (DAS) in a growing number of buildings.
At the NEDAS 2018 NYC Summit, a panel of industry experts discussed the many layers and players within the topic of deploying DAS in enterprise funded buildings. The panel included Ed Myers, Regional Vice President of Cheytec Communications; Bryan Goldberg, Director of Small Cell Real Estate at Verizon; Jodd Readick, Chairman of User Centric Communications and Keith Pennachio, Executive Vice President and Head of Strategy at SQUAN.
The economic side of the issue, as opposed to the technological side, was the most prominent facet of this discussion, with all participants agreeing that the financial dynamics were the most crucial aspect to investigate. The panelists explored how the world of enterprise funded DAS deployments has pivoted towards a financial discussion, emphasizing return on investment (ROI) for building owners as the driving objective. The technology has become a means to an end, a conduit through which ROI can be created. Building owners are primarily looking for ways to make their space attractive from a business standpoint, entice carriers and raise their capitalization rates. DAS systems are now necessary to achieve these goals. As Goldberg stated, connectivity is like hygiene in that it is measured in its absence.
With clearly outlined motivators, the questions of who will pay for this connectivity service and through what methods still remain. Deploying these systems is usually a significant expense, and enterprises are often unable to shoulder the finances. Luckily, platforms are springing up to aid enterprises in these DAS pursuits, often by associating the DAS and signal source components with capital expense. Licensing agreements with capitalization are becoming a prominent trend in financing these projects, and building management companies have also entered into the funding component to make money available to help capitalize expenses.
Essentially, the consensus was that while the building owner will front the capital, whether through a lease model or an outright capital funding model, the expense of the service would end up being charged to the tenant. This could mean an increase in price per square foot or an additional service or utility charge. This factor, combined with the fact that pricing will ultimately depend on the needs of individual tenants, means that the occupants of these spaces will drive much of the discussion and implementation methods of DAS.
The levels of expectation, sophistication and necessary features range widely from entity to entity. As Readick noted, the needs of Garment center enterprises differ hugely from that of a VR firm, with each needing different response times. Hospitals are often in need of multi-signal sources as families require connectivity for news about loved ones. Each tenant has their own unique requirements and desire for features. An additional consideration will be whether the company uses these services as the core of their business or whether it is just a useful feature. Everything will need to be tailored to the needs of a potential client, with the building owner having to anticipate the expectations of future tenants and deliver accordingly.
In-building wireless is the new test of a facility’s capabilities in the age when connectivity is of cardinal concern. The path to achieving wireless connectivity in enterprise funded buildings is not a simple one. Considerations are filled with competing factors and layers that dictate how a project should be deployed, with economic strategy and the needs of the tenant as first priority. Fortunately, as the burgeoning needs for wireless continue to expand, the industry is learning, adapting and facilitating navigable paths for successful deployment in enterprise buildings.