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At its 2017 Partner Summit in October, WilsonPro hosted a Special Keynote Panel featuring guests from Verizon, US Cellular, RCR Wireless, and TESSCO. During the panel, “Enterprise Cellular Connectivity: In-Building Signal Solutions for Improved Operational Efficiency,” experts discussed key challenges and trends around building cellular connectivity.
Panelists stated that cellular connectivity in no longer a “nice to have,” but a “must-have.” Here are some key takeaways from the panel:
1. The spend on building cellular connectivity is shifting away from carriers
While the onus was formerly on carriers alone to improve the cellular infrastructure in buildings, that is no longer the case.
“Carriers used to lead the coverage,” William A. Moten, VP of Advanced Solutions for TESSCO said. “They’d outfit your building, you’d sign up for a certain number of handsets and they’d provide a free desk. That lasted for many years, and people got spoiled.”
That trend stopped over the last several years, however.
“Now they still need in-building coverage and they can’t wait for the big carriers to come in and do that so there has to be another solution,” Moten said.
For Moten’s part, he said TESSCO support hundreds of thousands of customers that need this coverage, and that the company relies on WilsonPro cell signal boosters, particularly for those buildings that are in the 200,000-square-foot or lower range.
2. There is still a gap in market education
Addressing the issue of improving coverage comes down to awareness, according to Scott Scheuber, Director of Product Management for US Cellular.
“(Awareness) transcends not just coverage but all business solutions” he said. “Especially in the small- to mid-size business space, (consumers) aren’t aware of a variety of solutions.”
Identifying the solution needs in terms of basic coverage and other facilities, and generating awareness around in-building solutions, he said, is key.
3. One size doesn’t fit all for in-building cellular connectivity
It’s essential that customers understand what their options are, according to Eric McClanahan, Manager of Network Solutions & Systems for Verizon.
“Carriers have driven what the options should be for a long time,” he said. “Now customers are looking to improve coverage not just in huge spaces, but in small and medium spaces as well, so they’re understanding the full gamut and that one size doesn’t fit all with in-building.”
McLanahan said Verizon views its network as “the great enabler” and is therefore heavily invested in cellular connectivity solutions.
To that end, he said, Verizon will not draw a line as to where carriers stop picking up the tab for solutions. Verizon handles connectivity issues on a site-by-site basis and communicates to its customers that while going directly through the carrier is one way to improve coverage, there are also others, including cell signal boosters.
“That’s part of the market education — helping them understand all of the options that are available to them,” McLanahan said. “But it’s up to them to determine what’s best for their business.”
4. There is still some residual concern about regulation
Moten reminded attendees that it wasn’t that long ago that cell signal boosters had a “bad rep,” and that some of that mentality still persists. This can make it difficult to get the customer buy-in on these solutions. To that end, traditional and active DAS still has a larger marketshare than passive DAS solutions.
“I think there is still some old thinking around that,” he said. “Before we had regulations … there were problems where people were deploying boosters and causing problems for the carriers.”
These types of boosters would shut down entire cell towers and Moten said that left consumers skeptical.
“Now we have the FCC ruling in place since 2014, he said. “Everything is cleaner, better, and approved by all carriers.”
As that ruling becomes more established, he said, the mindset will continue to shift.
5. Boosters are more network friendly than ever
Today’s cell signal boosting equipment is more network friendly than ever, and carriers are embracing it for both in-building and in-vehicle coverage, panelists said. The momentum is building that this is a real solution to the problem.
“There is a level of trust that wasn’t there before,” Moten said. “We want to work with products we can trust to provide value to our customers and meet their needs.”
The continually growing partnership between carriers and solution implementers is also key.
“It’s about trust from a carrier perspective — it’s about a partnership,” McClanahan said.
Ultimately, the success of in-building solutions will depend on the continued cooperation and partnership of carriers and solutions providers.
“We believe we’re just getting started,” Bruce Lancaster, CEO of Wilson Electronics told attendees. “We will continue to help lead this industry and right now the biggest competitor we have is the lack of knowledge.”
Lancaster said there are 5 million commercial buildings in the U.S. and that 98 percent of those are less than 200,000 square feet — the size for which passive DAS cell signal boosting solutions are ideally suited.
“We’ve just barely scratched the surface,” he said. “We have to be very careful to ensure that we don’t get back to the wild wild west of products — that all the products and solutions out there are adhering to the rules to make sure that the carriers are protected.”
If you’d like to learn about WilsonPro cell signal booster solutions contact us today.