Byline: Manuel Fishman, Esq.
You probably own a “smart phone” and a laptop that has a wireless function that can connect to your company’s network. You probably bring one or both to the office. Now multiply that by 50% of the employees of every tenant in your building. If this is too abstract, focus on the chief executive of a tenant that is rushing from his office to the elevator to the ground floor lobby or garage in the building and loses reception on his smart phone multiple times along the way. What does that do to enhance the tenant experience and branding of the building as a first-class office building?
At its most basic, a DAS is a targeted wireless system that distributes the signals of licensed carriers as well as unlicensed “wi-fi” signals–if enabled–within a building through a design that increases coverage areas and boosts bandwidth capacity. And while we refer to a DAS as “wireless,” as with everything in a building, a significant amount of equipment, cabling, and antennas are required to create a “wireless” experience.
There are two types of systems–dedicated carrier and multicarrier systems, with the multi-carrier most often being “hosted” either by a third party integrator or a carrier. Dedicated systems are often found in single tenant buildings where a company has a preferred provider; multi-tenant office buildings should go the route of “neutral host” multi-carrier systems.
Most providers need a minimum of 10 years to get a return on their capital investment (which can be in excess of $2MM), and ask for multiple extension options. In certain circumstances, the owner may agree to assume ownership and management responsibility. “Future proofing” upgrades are an important consideration, as is exclusivity, coordination with other building systems, and antenna placement issues.
One thing is clear–the demand for more bandwidth and coverage within commercial buildings for wireless devices is on a significant and irreversible growth trajectory. The outdoor “macro” network is overloaded and buildings need to think “inside out” not “outside in.” For certain larger tenants, a leasing decision includes, as an RFP item, the availability or right to install a DAS. Building management should consider whether and how a DAS system can enhance a building’s value.