Recently, we’ve been hearing a lot about small cells and network densification. What you don’t hear much about are the long time-frames and expenses around deployment. Connected Real Estate sat down with Shervin Gerami, CEO of TeleWorld Solutions and SmallCellSite.com, to discuss those challenges and how SmallCellSite.com is revolutionizing the process.
Connected Real Estate: You’re the CEO at TeleWorld Solutions and SmallCellSite.com. What do these companies do and what problem are you solving?
Shervin Gerami: I’ve been working with TeleWorld as CEO since 2009, and grew the company from zero revenue to a trajectory of 200 percent year-over-year growth as a solutions-based engineering firm focused on the build-out and upgrade of LTE networks. TeleWorld’s model and value proposition is to find ways to make the network deployments faster and more efficient. Over the last couple years, we noticed it took a significantly longer period of time for carriers to deploy small cells than for cable companies to deploy Wi-Fi. SmallCellSite.com was founded to provide a way to expedite the deployment of small cells.
CRE: What was the “big idea” behind SmallCellSite.com?
SG: Our business outlook is to find better ways to solve problems. As we explored how to break the inertia for the deployment of small cells, we discovered that there’s too much process and expense to site acquisition. Our big idea centered around shortening this process by finding existing and viable vertical assets – rather than traditional site acquisition via rights-of-way or private light poles – and connecting the carrier directly to the property owner.
CRE: What is the value proposition of SmallCellSite.com?
SG: SmallCellSite.com is a “marketplace” that allows property owners to list their assets and market them to carriers seeking to deploy small cells – and, mind you, any type of antenna – and to enable them to do a transaction together. It’s a holistic, single-source solution to the market problem that empowers property owners to monetize their assets and carriers to expedite small cells deployments.
CRE:: What elements does the marketplace comprise?
SG: First, we reduce the costs of site acquisition. Second, we educate the property owner on the going market rate. Third, we inform the carrier of properties that have power and proximity to fiber. Lastly, we provide a knowledge management system that includes key information such as zoning and permitting on the SmallCellSite.com portal.
CRE:: When did you launch?
SG: We launched at CTIA Super Mobility in September 2016 where SmallCellSite.com won second place in the 10th Annual Emerging Technology Awards within the EVERYTHING INTELLIGENT In-Building Wireless category. When we launched, the marketplace included about 80 thousand properties in the database. Today, we list hundreds of thousands of assets.
CRE: Who are your customers?
SG: We work with building owners and carriers. But it’s not just REITs; it’s also property management and leasing companies. These are important stakeholders who are encountering potential tenants who increasingly base leasing decisions on whether there is adequate cellular coverage indoors. SmallCellSites.com is a tool in the toolbox for property managers.
CRE: What about traditional site acquisition players such as tower companies?
SG: SmallCellSite.com is a marketplace of alternative assets that solve for site acquisition when rights-of-way or poles are not an option. Tower companies own multiple assets including towers and poles, as well as rooftops. These assets all need to be monetized. The SmallCellSite.com portal can help tower companies monetize those alternative assets.
CRE: How important is wireless coverage to tenants?
SG: It’s very important. Wireless has become a utility. In terms of infrastructure, the evolution of buildings has progressed from being delivered with just power, to the addition of wiring for telephone, and, later Ethernet cabling. 80 percent of data consumption occurs indoors. We’re already seeing that tenants won’t sign a lease unless there’s cellular coverage. It’s the fourth utility.
CRE: Given your background, it’s probably easier engaging carriers than building owners. What challenges do SmallCellSite.com encounter with the latter?
SG: There’s a gap that needs to be bridged between the real estate and wireless communities. Connected Real Estate is an important asset for helping both sets of stakeholders develop a common vocabulary. The problem building owners are solving is leasing and retention. Wireless stakeholders need to align value propositions with those outcomes. SmallCellSite.com helps achieve those results by connecting building owners and carriers in the marketplace.
CRE: Do you agree with recent reports of carrier Capex spending shifting to small cells?
SG: There is a capacity problem created by what I refer to as the “Big Mac Problem” in which unlimited data plans have caused capacity consumption to skyrocket. The result is that carriers need to deploy massive amounts of capacity. The solutions are to buy more spectrum or densify the network. Small Cells are going to be the predominant way to densify the network indoors and outdoors, with indoor small cell deployments being a fast and efficient way to solve the capacity problem. There are a lot of buildings that require indoor coverage. SmallCellSite.com is at the forefront of this market segment which is going to be explosive.
CRE: How do building owners and carriers reach you?
SG: Visit SmallCellSite.com and register for the marketplace.