Progressing network densification to keep up with the demands of consumer data usage

Viva DAS Vegas

We recently spent some time at the DAS & Small Cells Congress in Las Vegas. While we were there, I moderated a panel discussion on reconciling requirements of carriers and enterprise real estate to advance in-building wireless deployments in mid-sized buildings. Panelists included:

  • Bryan Brooks, Vice President of Carrier and Wholesale Services at Pavlov Media
  • S. Rusty Stone, Telecommunications/Tech Project Manager at Camden Property Trust
  • Tim Moynihan, Vice President of Marketing at SOLiD

We spoke about how mid-sized enterprise and venue stakeholders justify capital expenditure (CapEx) and define ROI. The conversation centered around what it takes to work with carriers on getting coverage for campuses, offices, and apartment buildings and complexes. Rusty Stone pointed out that ROI here isn’t so much calculated by additional revenue, but is measured by what revenue isn’t lost because of a lack of in-building connectivity.

Wireless expectations

For Stone, the pain point comes when potential and current renters coming from college campuses have high expectations of wireless coverage and can be disappointed when those expectations are not met: “Within the last three years, the paradigm has begun to change. These folks have different expectations, and that’s driving the market.”

Bryan Brooks chimed in stating that, “Once your property is marked as having issues with wireless connectivity, it can take two or three leasing cycles — four to five years — to improve vacancy rates.” As Stone noted, “The difficulty lies in coming up with a good solution that’s legal,” and works cooperatively with carriers. With the demand for in-building DAS growing rapidly, the importance of cross-organization collaboration is paramount. This demand is straining carriers’ and regulatory agencies’ ability to respond to permitting requests fast enough.

But, there is hope in sight.

Building owners are taking the lead: “We’re beginning to see early stages of service level agreements in leases to provide a certain level of services by the carrier. There are incentives or penalties to enforce these,” said Tim Moynihan. But, this isn’t the norm yet.

“Once you find out you have a problem, even if you’re prepared to address it, there’s still the dreaded lag time of getting all the carrier agreements in place. I’ve had situations where it’s taken over a year.”

— S. Rusty Stone, Telecommunications/Tech Project Manager at Camden Property Trust

Building owners are used to the wifi installation process, but wireless service is a whole different animal: “When we shift the model from the wifi model to the carriers, there are a number of items that don’t work. We’re starting to see some systems that will help us get there,” said Brooks.

Key takeaways

Although there are ups and downs, the trajectory is generally upwards. There are a lot of exciting things happening and I left the DAS & Small Cells Congress with a handful of key takeaways:

  • There has never been a more exciting time to be in the telecom community. There are many players involved in network densification including carriers, services firms, OEMs, and the middle enterprise, like apartment buildings, college dormitories, and mid-sized commercial buildings. As the demand for constant connectivity increases, the consumers can benefit greatly if all stakeholders take an approach of shared responsibility to implementation and maintenance.  
  • We are on the cusp of understanding of the impact Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) and shared networks will help drive capacity-starved 5G networks.
  • As we await 5G standards, the carriers are already well on their way to laying the infrastructure needed to launch networks quickly.  The US is acting boldly in ensuring that we utilize our lead in spectrum efficiency, existing infrastructure and working to overcome jurisdictional hinderances, especially when it comes to small cells.

In short, the pace of densification is increasing and that means that it’s more important than ever to make sure the operational side of your business is in shape to handle it.

Shoot me an email to talk about transforming your business to enable your team to keep up with the pace of densification.