Where once mobile network operators and neutral-host distributed antenna system (DAS) providers ruled the business of providing in-building wireless communications service, now building owners and occupants have ascended.
“In-building wireless once was carrier-focused, but now it is much more focused on the needs of the enterprise client,” said Adrian Berezowski, senior managing director of CBRE Telecom Advisory Services. With 70,000 employees and $11 billion in annual revenue, CBRE is one of the world’s largest real estate investment managers.
— Adrian Berezowski, senior managing director of CBRE Telecom Advisory Services
Berezowski was speaking during the session “Marketing to the Enterprise” at the May 2017 Wireless Infrastructure Show in Orlando, Florida.
“Within the enterprise space, it is important to know who exactly your client is,” Berezowski said. “Dealing with an owner or an occupant involves two different dynamics. There is a knee-jerk reaction in our industry to provide enterprise clients with the most robust, capable, forward-thinking in-building wireless system. But that’s not necessarily what the client wants or needs, and that’s not what they’re looking for.”
Berezowski noted, for example, that the in-building wireless communications requirements of a college campus are vastly different from those of a data center or law firm.
He said the advisory services office receives calls almost daily from CBRE property managers and brokers, often after they read an article about in-building wireless or after being approached by a vendor. He described the managers and brokers as forward-thinking. They don’t want to lose tenants, he said, and they want CBRE to be a world-class company with world-class properties — the Googles and Amazons of the real estate world.
Some building owners have retrofitted their properties to qualify for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification or to otherwise upgrade the look of the building, installing ultraviolet (UV) light-resistant windows in the process. Usually made with one or two layers of metal or metallic oxide to make them reflective, the windows also weaken or block radio signals from cell towers.
“Although they thought that they just made a $20 million improvement to their property, that improvement has stuck them with absolutely no wireless coverage within their building, and now they’re being reactive,” Berezowski said.
It falls upon the Telecom Advisory Services office to educate CBRE brokers and property managers about the advantages and disadvantages of various kinds of in-building wireless systems. Berezowski said the office receives calls every day from brokers and property managers who have been approached by ExteNet Systems, Vertical Bridge or other vendors, and they don’t understand what they’re being offered. The brokers and managers are looking to bring in leases for sometimes vast amounts of square feet of enclosed space, and Berezowski said they don’t necessarily understand the benefits of in-building wireless communications.
Clients can be misled by signal strength readings on their own cellular handsets, Berezowski said. “If they see signal-strength bars on their phones, they conclude the coverage is good,” he said. “We start to discuss with them, ‘What does that mean? Do you really have full bars? Do you really have full coverage? What is your capacity?’ Almost all clients ask about Wi-Fi. We explain that Wi-Fi can certainly be a viable solution in some aspects. But it’s not a very long-term approach.”
In partnership with Mosaik, a company that provides mobile network performance analysis, CBRE provides benchmark mapping services to its clients. “We’re going into CBRE-managed buildings and mapping out the wireless coverage,” Berezowksi said. “It’s a two-front approach. If they do have good coverage, they can use the information to market space to prospective and current tenants. But more often than not, the mapping documents a coverage problem to take to the building’s investors and owners.” CBRE then works with companies that provide in-building wireless systems to help its clients obtain the best result. Among such companies are Whoop Wireless, Vision Technologies, Harris Communications, C2 Systems, Dali Wireless, In-Building Cellular, Anixter, LCC, Pierson Wireless, Comba Telecom, Connectivity Wireless, Stiehl Communications, JMA Wireless and ExteNet Systems.
The Client’s Best Interest
“We don’t necessarily want to provide what’s best for the carrier,” Berezowski said. “We want to provide what’s best for the client. It takes multiple calls. It takes multiple meetings. Eventually, we gain a full understanding of what they’re looking for. Are they interested in funding? Obviously, that’s one of the biggest questions.”
Berezowski said that before building investors and owners pay to install in-building wireless systems, they must ensure that wireless carriers will contract with them to use the systems.
“If you don’t have the carriers coming in, if they’re not interested ahead of time, you’re dead in the water, and that’s something we want to avoid more than anything,” he said. “CBRE had some interesting stories when we first got into this space. A property or two spent time and invested a significant amount of capital to put in systems that then sat there for many years. There was nothing going on because they didn’t have the carrier interest.”
Don Bishop is the executive editor of AGL Magazine. He joined AGL Media Group in 2004. He was the founding editor of AGL Magazine, the AGL Bulletin email newsletter (now AGL eDigest) and AGL Small Cell Magazine.
A frequent moderator and host for AGL Conferences, Don writes and otherwise obtains editorial content published in AGL Magazine, AGL eDigest and the AGL Media Group website.