Since the birth of the iPhone in 2005 and the resulting wireless data demand, in-building wireless (IBW) systems have gone from curiosity to luxury to amenity and, finally, to utility status. Most recently, IBW communications —DAS, public safety and Wi-Fi — have crossed the chasm from being seen as a technology to being accepted as an intelligent building solution, RF Connect marketing executive Bob Butchko told DAS Bulletin.
“Today, the commercial real estate industry recognizes that having a positive in-building smartphone or tablet experience is critical to tenant acquisition and retention,” Butchko said. “It is commonly accepted that most commercial, residential or office buildings need, or will need, some form of in-building wireless enhancement if only for satisfying government-mandated public safety radio regulations.”
But that success has led to its own challenge: Who is going to pay for this solution?
As DAS moves from amenity to utility, building owners must figure out how to deploy and pay for wireless within their buildings. Carriers, which deploy DAS in hundreds of public venues and for thousands of their major accounts, are not much interested in the 1.2 million or so commercial buildings, most of which are not strategic to their business plans. Tower companies work on the same ethic; if the carriers don’t see a site as strategic, the tower companies won’t build there.
The only option left for most building owners, unless their building has a very high profile, is to purchase and deploy the IBW systems, which sets up a new dynamic. Building owners who are not knowledgeable about DAS are pressed into the position of project managing a wireless deployment, interfacing with carriers, the building tenants, municipality, general contractors, system integrators, OEM manufacturers, financial/legal experts and consultants. Butchko points out that just negotiating with the carriers is fraught with complications.
“[You need to] go to the carriers and find out if the building is strategic or not. What would they be willing to do? Would they provide a base station? Would they want to put antennas on the roof?” Butchko said. “What are their restrictions? Any DAS plan must be cleared by the carriers.” He recalls a DAS that was built at a hospital, and the carrier came by and told them they couldn’t do it.
To assist building owners in deploying an indoor wireless system, at RealComm IBcon 2013 on June 12, RF Connect launched a new service, known as the RFC Connection, which elevates RF Connect from the status of mere integrator to business partner and consultant for the building owner.
“Instead of skinnying down the bid to beat the competition, we will be trying to put the wireless systems that are really needed in the building for the lowest cost and best results over the long term for the client,” Butchko said.
The RFC Connection offers an end-to-end integrated package of services, where it assesses, designs, implements and provides long-term support for the wireless systems, as well as serving the building owner as a partner and advocate.
“The industry needs a new approach where a third party looks out for the building owners’ interests,” said Butchko. “Effectively, the burden of providing and supporting cellular coverage, Wi-Fi and all in-building wireless capabilities is contractually outsourced to RF Connect. All this adds up to a much better outcome for the owner.”