In-Building Wireless, the next frontier for Integrators

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For in-building wireless to become carrier friendly, the carriers need to decide how they want to grow indoor coverage. They already admitted they don’t want to put DAS and small cells in every building. They are attempting to cover form the outside in.

Unless the venue is large, they won’t be putting anything in a building if they don’t have to. So, what is the alternative?Small Cell Cover 4

Well, I have some ideas. They need to align with partners and be willing to roam like they do with Wi-Fi.

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Carriers need to utilize CBRS and LTE-U for their systems. This means that the handset makers need to add that spectrum and functionality into the handsets. They probably will push back but if they don’t then the carriers will have to rely on Wi-Fi to offload everything. I don’t see them doing that, especially for voice. They’re going to find other ways to get in.

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Here is what I see, system integration and going to buy smaller OEM small cells in the CBRS and LTE-U bands to create private LTE systems. They will make deals with building owners, managers, and management companies. Then they can offer their service as an add-on for the carriers to roam onto it. It’s like DAS, but instead, a DRS, Distributed Radio System where someone builds the in-building network and allows the carrier to roam onto it.

Everyone wins except the integrator that wants to monetize. They will have to come up with a way to get paid. The carriers won’t pay much, if anything, to roam into a building they don’t care about in the first place. They just don’t care anymore. I’m not saying “Build it, and they will come” either because hope is not a strategy. What I am saying there is a way to become more valuable by assisting the carrier and building your own business model. Maybe by becoming the ISP for the building.

The integrator will need to supply more than RF in the building. They will need to supply Wi-Fi along with the other technologies and spectrums. They may also need to supply backhaul and edge computing systems to accommodate the needs of 5G. Perhaps even data closets to serve the building. The models are changing, and the opportunity is growing. The carriers can’t, (or won’t), do it. They won’t spend the money unless they have a serious payback model. The integrator has an opportunity to supply backhaul and more.

If you think this model won’t work, then why is Comcast using a similar model wherever they go? They will install Wi-Fi in a building for a low-cost if they have the backhaul access to the building. They make the real money off of internet access to backhaul and maintain the Wi-Fi system. This would be almost the same thing, but it would be an outlet for the carriers to roam onto and offer the end user a Private LTE and/or 5G systems. That’s the way we want to go.

It has to make sense for all involved. Do your due diligence when you research the models. It’s not cheap to roll something like this out.

This is something like the Crown Castle is already are doing with smart poles that they roll out. Those guys were ahead of their time when they started this model. They supply all the features in hopes that the carriers will pay to go on. They need to pay for power, backhaul, and rent. It all adds up to success for Crown.

Just think “neutral host” of small indoor buildings. It will be the next wave if the spectrum is available and the models can break even or even turn a profit.

It looks like partnerships will be a crucial denominator for in-building coverage to move forward. Partnerships between building owners, OEMs, vendors, engineers, suppliers, and management companies. Then the partnership between carriers and the system manager.

The carriers have to get the spectrum and technologies in the handsets so that all of this can move forward.

Spectrum and technologies will need to be considered. We all know that Wi-Fi is almost everywhere. Will CBRS and LTE-U buildup like that? What about license-free 60GHz that was supposed to be Wi-Fi? Will mmwave start to roll out everywhere if the equipment is cheap like regular Wi-Fi?

The problem will be payment. Who will pay for these systems? Who will build them and who will maintain them? Is there s solid business case to move ahead? I think to do this we need to look outside the carriers. We need to look at more than just the Wi-Fi in the building. What other services can we offer?

Think IOT for devices, tracking, switch control and meter reading. Think of the thermal control we could have in each specific area of the building. Think of security, alarms, emergency lights and switches that could help someone. Think of the tracking we could have through the building as well as helpful apps on someone smartphone to guide them to a specific place to buy something. Here is a way to make the landlord your customer. Perhaps they need to track items in the building using RFID, or they need to monitor temperature systems and water pressure using smart meters. They may want to read the electric and gas meters more than once a month using smart meters. This is all possible when you build the in-building wireless system. Even smart lighting could be implemented if they want to pay for it.

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We have to become creative in looking for revenue. A smart building will have a use for almost everything I mentioned above. They need to track everything to maintain the building’s environment. They may have to track people or equipment so that nothing gets lost. They may need to provide such an efficient building that the payback exceeds the system installation and maintenance. Good luck proving that, but I have seen that to be the case. Smart buildings were a luxury in the past, today they’ve become an expectation. It’s also more affordable than ever.

That’s the thing with Wi-Fi, it’s very cost effective, i.e., cheap. It’s a great alternative to offload, but it just doesn’t play well with LTE. Now, we are evolving to 5G, will that change? Will 5G turn back the hands of time to accommodate an older technology? Probably not. So, when you go into a building to do the Wi-Fi and backhaul, remember that it could be the foundation for an IOT system, a DAS or DRS system. It could be the foundation for all the additional service you can see at the time of the Wi-Fi installation. Let’s not forget any retail that uses their iPads for a POS, (Point of Sale), system.

We’ll need to offload, but with 5G, will the new spectrum solutions eliminate the need to offload? Will the present unlimited data plans make it so that we only need our smart device in most cases? These are all questions we’ll be able to answer in 2020. For now, let’s move ahead with what we know and build up the in-building wireless systems with what we have, Wi-Fi, LTE-U, and CBRS. Let’s add DAS or DRS systems today.

The integrators need to think outside the box. It’s not just about DAS, is it? It’s not just about Wi-Fi or CBRS, but it’s about the package. The backhaul, the edge servers, the routing, easy access, and so on. Also, don’t forget that the building owner will want a piece of the pie. They need to get something for allowing you in their building. It no longer makes sense to pay a flat fee for rent, but if you can sign up the tenants, then you have an income stream that you can share with the building owners or managers. They want to get paid and to be honest; it’s good business.

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