The list of utilities serving a commercial building now has to include wireless connectivity. And with new planning guidelines and tech developments, this should now be easier to achieve, says Philip Sorrells.
1 July 2015 | By Philip Sorrells
Wireless connectivity in most commercial buildings exists today in the form of Wi-Fi, but the same cannot be said for cellular coverage.
In fact, only about 2 per cent of commercial real estate buildings are equipped with a dedicated indoor wireless system that provides cellular coverage.
As mobile traffic is doubling every 18 months, and because nearly 80 per cent of all mobile sessions take place indoors, the outdoor cellular network simply can't keep up with in-building demand.
For a commercial building today to be properly described as fully functional it must incorporate a wireless network into its design from the start. If not, the developer will eventually have to get those blueprints out and begin retrofitting to keep the building competitive in a competitive commercial market.
It's time to consider wireless as the next utility just like electricity, gas and water. Planning for mobile broadband support indoors is no longer a nice-to-have, but a must-have. To do this properly, building developers and owners need to look at how the modern employee works.
The modern office has evolved right along with the technologies that support it. All a modern worker really needs is mobile connectivity to get online and get working. The option of flexible working is usually taken up enthusiastically wherever it is offered in the UK. The Centre for Economics and Business Research predict that expanding the scheme to everyone who wanted it could add an extra £11.5 billion a year to the UK economy.
Increasingly, we see companies allowing employees to bring their own devices to work and use them to access the corporate network which, for many IT managers, creates not only security and access concerns, but also reinforces the need to provide ubiquitous wireless connectivity throughout the office because these devices typically connect wirelessly.
Awkwardly for advocates of bring your own device (BYOD) in the enterprise, only about 2 per cent of the 30 billion square metres of commercial real estate worldwide today have an indoor wireless system for cellular. In fact, research shows that more than three in four employees reported that they had to leave their desk or go outside to find sufficient wireless reception. The need for reliable, secure indoor cellular coverage is clearly there.
Future-proof your office space
To implement wireless connectivity from day one, you should consider sevearl factors:
- Plan - the design phase ahead of any new building or renovation is the ideal time to ensure that the cabling infrastructure is in place to support any wireless coverage that the building might require.
- Understand the architecture - building angles, materials and the placement of wireless access points will all affect the efficacy of the in-building wireless (IBW) system. The low emissivity window tinting used in modern green buildings, for example, will block not only heat and light, but also wireless signals.
- Complements will get you everywhere - an IBW system will use many individual components. To future-proof your installation, buy hardware designed to be updatable and optimised for inter-vendor compatibility. This prevents expensive wholesale change-outs of your system if it's ever needed.
- Build in security - office spaces that provide Wi-Fi, cellular and traditional fixed IP access need an overarching strategy for data integrity and security. IBW systems that transport radio frequency (RF) without adding new security concerns are ideal.
- Use it right - once you have this intelligent network installation in your property you will have access to a huge range of building information management services. Low-power sensor devices that share the same physical POE (Power Over Ethernet) infrastructure as the IBW system are a cost-effective way to collect data about the building's use and, when connected to a good analytics platform, will help you and your tenants to optimise resources.
- Remain current - Wi-Fi standards continue to evolve so it's crucial that the infrastructure is able to keep up. Thought must be given to new ways to integrate wireless capabilities into the core network, rethinking how wireless access points and infrastructure cabling are deployed throughout the building, for example, and the effect this will have on traditional cabling infrastructure. Similarly, cabling standards have also started to plan for IBW systems to address cellular coverage. As with cabling for Wi-Fi in advance, it's equally important to plan for IBW.
- Think total cost of ownership - a good installation is not the plumbing of dumb pipes - it is the installation of an ecosystem that will evolve and secure the marketability of a building for years. Employee demands for flexibility, BYOD and enterprise grade apps on mobile devices are not trends that show any signs of slowing down.
Organisations realistically expect to have electricity, water, HVAC and other utilities throughout the building.
Wireless connectivity has just joined that list.
Philip Sorrells is vice-president of strategic marketing company CommScope