Implications of 5G on the Built Environment

| on August 05, 2019

Over the past few months we have seen major global mobile operators launch their first 5G Networks, with AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint here in North America, and EE and Vodafone in the UK. We’ve also seen international controversy directly affect 5G rollout timelines with the Huawei privacy battle.

Hype and spend around 5G solutions have increased both for the network and end user devices like smartphones. Additionally, mobile coverage within buildings is rapidly increasing in importance on the the list of key requirements for employees according to a 2019 Savills report. The number of applications and use cases for 5G-enabled technology will grow exponentially; yet, the challenges in providing the fundamental coverage required to fulfill these applications is going to become increasingly difficult to deliver. 

Simply put, 5G operates on a higher frequency signal than 4G and as a result 5G can only be used over a smaller area of transmission.

This means landlords are faced with two new questions:

  1. How will my buildings support citywide 5G coverage?
  2. How can we provide ubiquitous mobile coverage to tenants within our buildings?
5G signals will be blocked by building materials

Infograpic 5G

Your assets in the 5G environment 

The 5G rollout will target all major cities first. For landlords, this means buildings must be ready to become part of the connected fabric of the city. To overcome the 5G signal transmission distance limitations, more and more transmission sites will be required to enable a WiFi-like deployment of 5G small cells. The sides of buildings, lampposts, road signs, and even trash cans are being touted as potential sites. Currently building rooftops are rented to mobile operators  for use as cell sites. However, the monetization of rooftops and the risk permanent cell sites have on future property development has recently brought this relationship into question.

Counterintuitively, a building equipped to serve a city’s 5G needs may not be able to serve the 5G needs of its occupiers. The team at a mobile operator responsible for implementing citywide coverage is not the same team who provides coverage to users within the building. Ubiquitous in-building 5G coverage will only become fully realized if dedicated mobile solutions become commonplace for all office developments in the next five years. 

The current working model for in-building mobile solutions will require a change involving closer collaboration among landlords, mobile operators, and in-building mobile solution providers. Taking the disconnect above as an example - landlords may have to look to coordinate efforts across different teams and stakeholders by suggesting in-building coverage in exchange for their building serving as a cell site for the city.

Lay the foundation for your 5G solution

For landlords and developers, providing an excellent in-building mobile experience has become an ever-growing challenge without even considering the requirements for 5G. They currently face a set of strategic and investment questions around in-building mobile. 

There is no simple answer for landlords and developers on how to provide or even prepare for 5G to be used in a building today. However, what we do know is that there are two important strategic considerations that will lay the foundations for how and when a solution will be required:

  1. The likely use cases for current and prospective tenants
  2. The date 5G will arrive in the building’s area

Landlords must first understand the current mobile performance of their buildings. After that, there are then simple and relatively low cost steps that can be taken to ensure buildings are prepared to enable the most relevant mobile technologies.  

5G is definitely not a silver bullet nor magic wand, but whatever the short term realities are, it will provide a whole new gamut of technological advancements. From the fastest download speeds users have ever experienced, to enabling the wide-scale utilization of connected devices and the mobile applications of VR and AR. 

If you have questions about 5G and how its upcoming rollout might impact your tenants, contact WiredScore's in-building technology experts.



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