Reactions from building owners to the release of 5G the fifth-generation of cellular wireless capable of connecting people and devices through greater speed, lower latency, and massive simultaneous connectivity in Chicago and Minnesota last week have been mixed.
While most building owners and corporate tenants agree that 5G network advancements will enable and inspire a new wave of computing and technological innovation that will change the way we live and work many believe we are still in very early innings to determine exactly how it will play out in the commercial real estate and office sector.
“In practical terms as we are still spending a fair amount of time in understanding the technology and planning for future developments,” said Nicholas Stello vice president of Information Technology New York-based Vornado Realty Trust which has assets totaling more than 20 million square feet across more than 37 properties in Manhattan.
There are several reasons why most building owners are taking a wait and see approach to 5G in-building connectivity. First and foremost 4G/LTE which is the currently the pervading cellular technology used by smartphones today will continue to remain as the primary backhaul network for the majority to smartphones in use for a very long time to come.
“4G its dynamite network, 4G is not going anywhere for years and years,” said Debra Mercier vice president of Chicago-based Wireless Concepts which supports and installs very large in-building enhancements and DAS systems
“It’s an exciting time. While there is not much demand for 5G right now, it [5G] will become a part of the flow of the changes coming in the technology landscape,” Mercier added.
The growth and availability of 5G networks will be driven by occupant use of 5G enabled smartphones and a telecommunications infrastructure comprised of small cells antennas systems which many carriers have just started the process of deploying.
According to Verizon’s CEO Hans Vestberg, the company does not expect to see any significant revenue from 5G networks until at least 2021.
Further, the in-building equipment market for 5G is still emerging. While some manufacturers like SureCall have started to release the first versions of 5G signal boosters and other antennas systems designed to bring 5G in-building they are still in the early iterations.
While many of the new 5G equipment and products are capable of working with existing in-building systems, through upgrades and the partial installations, how to bring 5G millimeter wave frequencies which can carry massive amounts of data at very high speeds and with very low latency still remains unresolved.
Dense building materials such as treated glass, steel and concrete have already made it difficult for 4G/LTE signals to enter inside of commercial office buildings and 5G will only make building penetration more difficult.
While carriers and equipment manufacturers are working to solve this issue, it still remains uncertain what it will take to fully build out 5G networks. But 4G networks have a long life span ahead of them regardless of when 5G goes fully commercial.
Building owners who have budgeted to upgrade their in-building wireless systems should, however, start looking at 5G in-building solutions.
Undoubtedly robust cellular connectivity is one of the best ways to future-proof commercial office buildings and ensure return on investment as building owners look to attract and meet tenant demand in the near future.
With more than 80% of all data consumed on smartphones and other devices originating inside of buildings much of the adoption of 5G in the commercial office market will come from building occupants who are users of smartphones.
One of the best things owners can do is conduct a review of their in-building systems and work with trusted advisors to understand how the evolution 5G will fit into their own plans.
“We rely on the wireless technology so heavily now. Building owners need to find a trusted advisor who understands the business case for cellular wireless technology deployments that they can evolve with. They need a trusted advisor to take them through the next five years,” Mercier said.