The question of how to market in-building wireless systems to investors and owners of buildings has taken on new significance with a shift in the responsibility for providing coverage indoors. For a time, mobile network operators sought cooperative venues and installed indoor wireless networks so they could sell airtime to the people inside. Sometimes the operators placed systems that worked only with their own service. Sometimes they accepted signals from other operators. And sometimes companies that were not themselves licensed as cellular operators built the systems and offered service to any carriers and all carriers — the so-called neutral-host systems.
— Brian Darr, president and CEO of Mosaik Solutions
More recently, mobile network operators have become reluctant to front the money necessary to build indoor wireless systems. Instead, they have allocated capital for other network improvements or to other parts of their core or affiliated businesses. Their exit left the responsibility to the building owners or occupants or to the management companies that represent them. Reaching these potential customers can require different approaches from in-building wireless system providers and the vendors that supply them.
“We have always had a lot of luck marketing at trade shows,” said Brian Darr, president and CEO of Mosaik Solutions. A former sales representative for Cellular One, Darr founded Mosaik Solutions (originally American Roamer) in 1988 as a provider of consumer roaming guides. In the early days of cellular, subscribers used printed roaming guides to help them use their phones when traveling outside of their service provider’s home area.
Outreach and Education
Speaking at the Marketing to the Enterprise session at the 2017 Wireless Infrastructure Show, Darr said Mosaik has found that email blasts to lists of people attract attention and generate calls from prospects for the company’s current network experience solutions. He said a direct sales outreach is important, and so is providing education about wireless communications to owners of large and small office, retail and residential space. He said some owners are involved in their properties, and some are absentee owners who use management companies, especially for the larger properties.
Mosaik tracks networks, coverage and experience. He said virtually every mobile network operator in North America, and many operators overseas, have databases of the marketed wireless service coverage for the entire industry, radio-frequency spectrum included. Despite widespread coverage, customers have complaints about coverage, including coverage indoors, which Darr described as not so good. He said part of the answer is to analyze the coverage at a more granular level, something he said the federal government understands is needed. He said that more and more often, building owners are hearing complaints about wireless service, and they know that something has to be done about it.
“Being able to have direct conversations and explain to people why in-building wireless is important is critical to our outreach,” Darr said. “So are partnerships with companies that already have the relationships with the clients who trust them and who understand that they’re going to assess what the needs are and offer the best and the most affordable solution for the specific problem that they’re trying to fix, yet also help them plan for the future.”
The 5G Question
Darr said all the talk about 5G wireless technology is wonderful for what it says the technology will bring. But he said the talk about 5G makes building owners and managers nervous about investing in technology today, because they worry that 4G equipment soon may become obsolete. He said the mobile network operators sometimes sow confusion, too. Several years ago, before 4G officially was launched, one operator announced that it had a launched 4G. Darr said the operator said it had launched 4G using a 3.5G solution that obtained data throughput speeds associated with 4G.
“We’re already seeing something similar with 5G,” Darr said. “We’re seeing the operators talking about launching 5G when some of the technical decisions haven’t even been made and it will be several years before they are able to roll out the complete set of 5G functionality.”
Owners with multiple buildings have limited resources, yet they want to tackle the problems in order of the priority in which they need to be solved, and a priority may be assigned because a specific tenant has a particular demand, Darr said. Or, it may be that they need to be looking across the entire universe of mobile network operators with an eye to addressing coverage problems for all users with all devices, he said.
“Many people think, five bars and we’re good to go,” Darr said, referring to part of one of the large operator’s marketing campaign of years ago that put an emphasis on the signal strength reading on wireless devices. “Just because you have a good signal doesn’t mean that you have the level of service that you need. In many respects, throughput has become far more important than signal strength. Congestion and other factors could be affecting the network.”
Darr said the Mosaik solution lets building owners or managers perform an inexpensive needs assessment on their property to determine where they need to spend the money first in order to provide wireless services. “They’re probably receiving complaints from tenants, and what they need is empirical evidence. They need to be able to go back and show the owners or the people who are going to be making the investment that ‘this is our problem. We have proof. Here’s the report.’|” Darr said the needs assessment report gives Mosaik the opportunity to walk in and make the sales pitch to the people who can write the checks.
“You may have an iPhone,” Darr said. “Why did you pay as much as three times more for an iPhone when you could have bought a Samsung, an HTC or another phone? Why did you do that? You did it because of the experience. My guess is, you probably are a lot more loyal to your iPhone than you are to your carrier. It’s the same thing for the building owner: It’s about the customer’s experience. Right now, you have the opportunity to improve that customer’s experience in an area that the mobile network operator is not taking care of them.”
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.