45 min read

🎧 #109: Demystifying wireless technology for CRE

“One perspective is I don't see wires anymore. Still, in the backend, there are lots of wires and there are lots of different wireless connectivity and frequencies and technologies that support building systems.


So the term wireless can refer to a number of technologies. And I think that's where people will get confused in terms of, what is wireless? Cellular vs. WiFi vs. LoRaWAN or other protocols being used to transmit data wirelessly."


—Greg Jones

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Episode 109 is a conversation with Greg Jones, founder and CEO of Montgomery Technologies.

Summary

We talked about all things wireless in commercial office buildings and how the network layer is vital infrastructure for enabling new technology in buildings. This episode demystifies technologies like DAS, Wifi, 5G, CBRS, etc.

Then Greg provides a decision tree for how to think about which networks apply in different situations. Enjoy.

  1. Montgomery Technologies (4:05)
  2. RealPage (2:41)
  3. WeCrashed (55:16)
  4. Subpod (57:42)
  5. Fantastic Fungi (58:08)
  6. Biggest Little Farm (58:23)

You can find Greg on LinkedIn.

Enjoy!

Highlights

  • Montgomery Tech’s background (4:05)
  • General trends in wireless technology today (10:43)
  • Celular (12:41)
  • DAS (16:04)
  • Wifi (28:27)
  • CBRS (35:36)
  • 5G (42:29)
  • LoRaWan (46:59)
  • How to make decisions in this environment (49:31)
  • Carveouts (55:00)

Music credit: Dream Big by Audiobinger—licensed under an Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License.

Full transcript

Note: transcript was created using an imperfect machine learning tool and lightly edited by a human (so you can get the gist). Please forgive errors!

[00:00:03] James Dice: hello friends, welcome to the nexus podcast. I'm your host James dice each week. I fire questions that the leaders of the smart buildings industry to try to figure out where we're headed and how we can get there faster without all the marketing fluff. I'm pushing my learning to the limit. And I'm so glad to have you here following along.

[00:00:31] James Dice: This episode is a conversation with Greg Jones, founder and CEO of Montgomery technologies. It's about all things wireless in commercial office buildings. The network layer is vital infrastructure for enabling new technology and buildings. And this episode, demystifies technologies like DAS wifi. Five G CBRS and more.

Then Greg provides a decision tree for how to think about which networks to apply in different situations. So please enjoy. Hey, Greg, welcome to the show. Can you introduce

[00:00:59] Greg Jones: [00:01:00] yourself? Thank you, James. Thanks for having me. Uh, my name is Greg Jones. I'm the president of Montgomery technologies. We are a technology provider in the commercial real estate space and have been doing this for almost 20 years. Our 20 year anniversary is going to be next year.

All

[00:01:14] James Dice: right, so 2003 is when you started it. What were you up to before 2000?

[00:01:22] Greg Jones: Um, yeah, I started out in the shipping business, which, um, I spent about 10 years doing that right out of college, traveling predominantly through Asia and sort of my key things, learning the business, um, at that back in those days was I was, um, I would play golf and I would, I would drink beer.

And that was sort of how I endeared myself with my colleagues and our, our clients. And that was sort of my role. Um, and evolved from there to, um, working for about 10 years doing it. It was, it was fascinating, but what I found was the.com thing was happening all around us, um, in, in, and I was in San Francisco.

[00:02:00] So we were sort of at the epicenter and I transitioned out of technology, out of shipping, into technology. And I went to work for a property management software firm, and we were working on sort of, kind of in that transition from dos to windows and then using the internet to pull information from properties.

So we had a relational database and a bunch of Sybase engineers, and we were pulling information predominantly from multifamily users back to corporate, allowing them to run reports and manage properties more efficiently. So that was my first real introduction to technology. And I was in the business development role there, and we ultimately sold the company to relocate.

[00:02:42] James Dice: Thanks for that background. One of the things I thought of while you were talking there is that I once had a, a.

Play golf and drink beer roll. And one of my jobs when I was a, uh, early graduate, I was a ringer, uh, in golfing. Got to, got to go on all of these different golf [00:03:00] outings in the middle of the afternoon when no one else did, just because I could shoot, you know, a good score that the sales guy really liked me and took me under, took me under his wing.

So I could, I could improve the foursome score. Uh, so I, I have never been a salesperson, but I've played that role once or twice.

[00:03:18] Greg Jones: I have the unfortunate task of teaching, both the president of my company then, and the executive. Vice-president how to play golf. Oh God. They would want to go with. To go hit balls.

So I would go over there and teach him how to play golf. And then they would work till about eight o'clock at night. And I was, I had a young kid at home and I kept saying, guys, I don't want to go hit golf balls at lunch. I need to get done with it. So I can go home because my wife is home with our newborn and I get you're killing me here.

So blessed the blessing and the curse, but no, in, in the Asia world, it was, I was introduced not as my title, um, for what I did, it was that I was, uh, a good golfer and that's sort of how I was introduced. So [00:04:00] you're calling your call sign in certain circles.

[00:04:03] James Dice: Exactly. Okay. So, uh, at what point did you start Montgomery

[00:04:08] Greg Jones: technologies?

Can you tell that story? Yeah, for sure. So I was working, um, kind of, sort of this property management and technology role. And I, uh, a friend of mine was involved in, um, sort of this transition of the riser management world and with Montgomery technologies. And I joined to run the operations for Montgomery technologies and this was back.

When sort of right after they deregulated telecom and in certain markets, California, Illinois, and others, they, uh, landlord declared MPO, which meant that the phone company no longer controlled the infrastructure that ran from the basement of the building or the, the main frame of the building and the MPO up the riser.

So riser management really was designed to help the landlord, um, manage the liability that was suddenly there since they inherited this copper infrastructure that copper was installed for [00:05:00] by the phone company and managed by the phone company since inception, but as they deregulated, they started to peel that back.

So our job was to work with the commercial real estate owner to manage the riser infrastructure. And historically that was copper. But as you know, we sort of saw things move from copper to fiber. There was a dramatic increase in the demand for space within the riser and the. To support the tenant telecom needs.

So we sort of were, I had a front page, front stage view of what happened as technology went from copper to fiber and from, you know, the old days of T1, um, all the way up to now where we're doing, you know, fiber circuits, gig circuits, 10 gig circuits. So all of that is sort of happened in the same envelope, in a commercial office building, which is the telecom riser.

And that infrastructure is something that Montgomery tech has been managing now for 20, 20 something years. So that's kind of how our [00:06:00] introduction to commercial real estate started. And that's really the background for which the lens that we're looking at is really from the landlord side of the house from an infrastructure side.

And how do we get the tenants, what they need from a technology perspective, in the context of a commercial real estate. Got it.

[00:06:18] James Dice: Can you explain how it worked before this riser service came to be like how, when the telecom companies pulled out, what were they doing before and why did they

[00:06:28] Greg Jones: pull out? They were sending their own technicians.

And, you know, the way that it was typically typically worked was it was all copper. So you had kind of a one for one for each phone line, there was a copper pair and the phone company would have technicians that would go do the cross-connects. Some larger buildings had their own onsite staff that would do cross connects, but as they deregulated, they handed it back.

The phone companies started to pull back a little bit on their staffing or the landlord started to insert themselves or had to insert themselves [00:07:00] in this role. So when the telecom company didn't do it, the tenant would hire whoever they wanted to go and do the installation. And the landlord suddenly had this problem where they would have multiple people coming into the building, working on infrastructure that was showing.

So your management was really to manage that. So only certain people were doing work. So you didn't have a situation where you're going to do work for a tenant on one floor and you take down tenants on floors above and below. It's got really riser management was sort of that, how do we manage the shared infrastructure and how do we do it in a way that's, you know, reduces liability and is cost-effective for all participants, tenant service provider and landlord.

And that's really kind of where we've been sitting ever since is that intersection between landlord tenant and the service providers. And that now applies not just to telecom, but also to, you know, building solutions as well as cellular or, or, or is we're going to talk about a little bit later. [00:08:00]

[00:08:00] James Dice: Yeah, totally.

Can you just give a general overview for people that aren't networking folks like me of, when you say telecom and building systems and wireless,

[00:08:10] Greg Jones: um,

[00:08:12] James Dice: How all the systems are different. And what sort of, what payloads for lack of a better term go on each of these systems, is it, um, all it, you know, phone type of things or is it all OT?

Can you talk about what goes on? What types of systems?

[00:08:27] Greg Jones: Yeah, so that, you know, you, you, you've got a fundamental telecom need in commercial office buildings that is distributed by the telecom providers. It typically runs up the building riser into the tenant space and that's how the tenants get their voice, data and internet, uh, for their services.

The landlord is often sort of passive in that role. They provide the space and allow the tenants to contract with the service providers, you know, at and T Verizon cogent at all, lumen that provide those services. So that's [00:09:00] the telecom side and the, the base building systems is typically a separate set of network infrastructure.

That. Um, and you've talked about this a lot on your, on your podcast, about the various silos for building systems. So there's the BMS and access control and metering, and all of that infrastructure is often separate and whether it's physically separate in a different, uh, telecom chase, or whether it's physically separate in an electrical riser, but that's infrastructure that runs throughout the building to support the OT side of that.

And obviously with convergence, there's been a transition and a kind of a convergence of OT and it, but from a physical infrastructure, it's still relatively siloed. And then the new participant in this is wireless. And how does wireless play in this space and wireless, um, from a cellular perspective versus, uh, versus wifi and other technologies all have different infrastructure.

[00:10:00] So what we're finding in commercial office buildings is that we have more and more networks in the building. And there are various stakeholders that are using the systems that are relying on the systems, and more importantly are owning and paying for the systems. And that becomes a big challenge from a riser perspective.

How do you manage all of these competing interests in a finite amount of space that is not getting any bigger. And as we've noticed a new design, the space for telecomm gets smaller and smaller. The architects are designing closets IDs to be as small as possible because it's not rentable square for. So we're, we're dealing doing much more technology with less space, so we have to be more efficient and how we use it.

Got

[00:10:42] James Dice: it. Got it. So can you talk about just like, we're going to go deep on wireless. That was kind of setting the context. They're going to go deep on wireless. Can you talk about just general trends in wireless connectivity

[00:10:54] Greg Jones: today? Yeah, I mean, I think the, you know, obviously the biggest trend in wireless is [00:11:00] 5g, which is going to be everything for everybody or for, we don't really know because it sort of becomes the panacea that's going to solve all ills and what, what, we're all realizing.

We're thinking that well, like instead of running a cable, I have a wireless connection. So all I need to do is connect and that's true. We, we now notice that. In our offices, we don't, we don't, we used to run two cat, five cat, six cables to every location. And we plug into the wall and plug it into our computer.

Most of us don't do that. We basically drop our laptop on our desk and we connect to the wifi, the wireless access points that are in our, in our system. So we've sort of feel like wireless replaces wires, but it's wireless to a point. And there is always a wired connection somewhere in the building and somewhere in the space.

So. You know, for many people, they think wireless is everywhere and they don't understand sort of how it works, but it is important to understand that it's wireless to a point. And then from there, there [00:12:00] are electronics and equipment that take that connection out to the network and then ultimately out to the internet.

So we're, you know, we, we sort of see it from, from one perspective is I don't see wires anymore, but in the backend there's lots of wires and there's lots of different wireless connectivity and frequencies and technologies that are supporting building systems. So the term wireless, um, can refer to a number of technologies.

And I think that's where people will get confused in terms of what is wireless cellular versus wifi versus wifi versus low LoRaWAN or others, uh, protocols that are being used as to transmit data wirelessly.

[00:12:41] James Dice: Totally. Yeah. And I think that the premise for this conversation, what I'm hoping to get out of it as kind of like.

Um, but just a general understanding of how, how each of them are different and where they play and that kind of thing. So, um, let's walk through a couple of them. Where do you, which one do you want to start with?

[00:12:59] Greg Jones: Well, I, I [00:13:00] think the one that, um, is probably the one that most folks are sort of trying to figure out right now is, is cellular.

And we can talk a little bit about cellular and explain sort of the history of cellular and commercial office buildings and some of the solutions that are out there. And then we'll introduce the term DAS, which stands for distributed antenna system. So, um, because we're all using our cell phones so much, maybe it's useful to start there, um, because we've all have this expectation that I can now use an app and I can manage, you know, my building systems or check my email or, you know, watch TV or what have you.

But, you know, historically, um, in a commercial office, building wireless cellular service, wasn't something that you need. Um, you know, you would use your cell phone when you were commuting to and from the office, and then you would pull up into your building and you would go to your desk and you would use your desk phone.

So initially we didn't really have a need for cellular in our buildings. And when the cell [00:14:00] carriers designed that their networks, they didn't factor covering buildings, they would, the goal for cellular initially was to cover people that were mobile I E in their cars, on the street. And it was designed around that user use case.

So what we found is that historically we didn't really need cellular in our buildings that obviously has changed. Um, and as the demand grew for cellular and the applications grew when we started to see this need to get cellular into buildings. So the kind of the start of this, where it was, you know, I trace it back to my first experience was this was, you know, right around 2004, 2005, Where you'd have large enterprises that were using, you know, doing billing like law firms or accounting firms using their blackberries.

And they wanted to make sure that their, their staff that would be in and out of the office could be billable at all times. So they would put in a cellular system in a building to enhance the signal so that they could use their blackberries and always be connected and always be billing. And that was [00:15:00] sort of where we saw that began.

And then it obviously with the iPhone, the whole industry sort of changed dramatically. Because now all of a sudden, I didn't even want to use my desk phone anymore. I, I wanted my to use my cell phone. It could do so much for me. And that's when we really saw the in-building space sort of explode from a, from a, from a wireless perspective.

And that gave rise to the need to enhance cell coverage within a building. So that's kind of where we started, you know, we didn't, we didn't design the th the carriers didn't design the network to cover the building, but now we're in the building and we want to grab it. And the way cellular works is your cell.

Your, your device goes to the signal. That's strongest. And if the signal strength outside of the building is strong enough, you can pull that signal from a neighboring tower, but as the signal degrades, your cell phone, doesn't have the ability to [00:16:00] pull that signal. So where, what, what has happened in sort of the solution for that is what we refer to in the industry as a distributed antenna system or a DAS.

And there are lots of different flavors of a DAS, but effectively what it, what it is, is a system where the signal strength in the building is made to be stronger than it is outside so that the users can use the use the cell phone and pull coverage from within the building without having to hit a cell site.

So that's kind of how it works from a technical standpoint. Um, there's lots of nuances in technologies around how that works and, and, and such, but that's basically what we're trying to do is make it so that the users in the building can pull signal from internally and not go to a cell side outside, and that it becomes a technological challenge for all of us.

And really what it has done is exposed sort of the typical split incentive challenge [00:17:00] in real estate, you know, and the business side around DAS has become is very, very complicated. And that's sort of the, the hardest part, the technology, there's lots of great companies and smart folks that have come up with all sorts of great technologies around cellular, but the business side around it is very complex and difficult to navigate.

[00:17:22] James Dice: Before we go there real quick. I just want to understand the technology side of things. So typically you'd have like a huge antenna on either a tower or on the top of the adjacent building on the top of your building. How does the actual infrastructure work inside of the building? Where the, is it like smaller antennas, like different types of equipment that they then run a line

[00:17:44] Greg Jones: to?

And then that go ahead. Yeah, that's a good question. I mean, so w the way that it DAS typically works is you have, you have to have a signal source, so you have to pull the cellular signal or create the cellular signal. So two ways to do it one way is you put [00:18:00] an antenna on the roof, like a donor antenna, and you pull the signal from a neighboring site, and then you distribute that through that building.

That is one way of doing it. The distribution through the building, um, is, is either active or passive. Passive is done with, with co-ax and non-powered equipment. An active is done typically with fiber and electronic, um, radio units that are then farmed out to antennas. The, the most common forms of DAS include some signal source, either a donor antenna or a base station, which is more advanced and then a backbone, which is now almost exclusively fiber.

So from a network standpoint, we have this base station where we generate the signal. We have a fiber backbone that extends up that same riser system. We have electronics that convert the fiber into the RF source, and then we have. 10 is [00:19:00] that are hung off of that, uh, that unit that go out and provide the coverage throughout a floor in a commercial office building.

And that's the design and that's how it works. But as you can imagine, in a 50 story office building, I have base station equipment. I have fiber backbone. I have electronics on, you know, every two or three floors and I have antennas, you know, 10 to 12 antennas on every floor. Wow. So it's a massive undertaking from an expense perspective.

And that's just to get, you know, one carrier on one frequency. So you take that and you need a base station for each carrier and you need antennas and or equipment that supports each carrier. So the amount of infrastructure required for a neutral hosts DAS that can support three, three carriers is quite extensive and very, very expensive.

So that's [00:20:00] really where the challenge has become is we're asking, you know, competing companies to share infrastructure. You're asking landlords to participate in this and they don't make any money. You know, when you pay your bill to Verizon, they don't say, oh, let's pay a portion of it to the landlord that funded the DAS and their building.

Right. That doesn't happen. So there's the incentives aren't necessarily aligned. So that's sort of been the challenge that we've had in commercial real estate is who owns the system who pays for it. And how does it get managed moving forward? And that's where the DAS industry has gone from, um, you know, different models that have evolved over time to the current model, which is the carriers are really not participating very much.

From a cost perspective, they're certainly not paying to be on these systems and not paying any rent. The carriers are basically telling landlords and the industry is telling the landlord, if you want cellular for your tenants, you should pick up a big portion of [00:21:00] the bill. And that's kind of where the industry is settled on.

Um, that's the current state of affairs from a co. And again, I'm referring predominantly to multi-tenant commercial office buildings. The calculus is different for the carriers in, uh, public venues in other environments, but really

[00:21:21] James Dice: owner occupied buildings or institutional buildings.

[00:21:24] Greg Jones: Yeah. Yeah. So this is, this is, this is sort of the, the lens here is commercial office, um, and typically mixed, uh, multi-tenanted space.

So that's kind of, that's kind of where, where we are, but the reality with DAS. You know, conceptually, it makes a lot of sense, right? You need cell coverage everywhere. There's a finite amount of space. If you can do a system that is neutral and can support multiple carriers and cover all of the floors, then that's the most efficient use of capital to get full coverage, to satisfy [00:22:00] everybody and get everybody sort of sharing in the costs.

That's the concept. But the reality is not everybody wants to participate at the same time. Not everybody wants is interested in that particular building example, if I'm T-Mobile and I don't have any enterprise customers in the building, I don't want a, I don't even think about that building as being anything I need to cover.

And if I'm a landlord and I build it and T-Mobile doesn't want to participate, I can't make them it's their signal. They own it. So that's, that's part of the challenge that we're seeing in the space is how do you get everybody on the same page and how do you get it from.

[00:22:38] James Dice: Absolutely. But the value proposition is if I'm a building occupant and I'll walk into the lobby, I haven't connected to any wifi networks yet.

Maybe I'm this it's the first time I'm there. I just have an expectation that I can make a phone call. Is that.

[00:22:53] Greg Jones: Yeah. And not only make a phone call, but I can stream the, you know, I've been watching a movie on Netflix and I, I have [00:23:00] my headphones on and I walk in off the street and I've got the movie playing and I want to watch that all the way up to my desk.

And I expect that that's going to work. And if it doesn't work, who am I going to blame? Is it Verizon or at, and T's fault, is it the landlord that's supposed to provide that for me? Is it my employer? Um, you know, so the expectation is that cell phones are going to work everywhere. Um, but the reality is that it costs a lot of money to deploy cellular networks everywhere.

And who's going to pick up that tab is sort of the question that we're all sort of grappling with. And so, yeah.

[00:23:32] James Dice: So what sort of models are you seeing for who picks up the tab then? I mean, there's a first thing I thought of is it's a landlord passing that through to the tenants and stuff.

[00:23:42] Greg Jones: Well, yeah, that's a great question.

Is there are a couple of, there's a couple of models, um, you know, in some cases and for certain strategic assets, if there's, you know, big enterprise customers, sometimes the cell carriers will, will want to cover them. They're doing a national deal and they'll provide coverage [00:24:00] for, you know, an enterprise customer in that building.

Some landlords, um, got out in front of this when the carriers were footing the bill and the carriers. You remember, you know, back in the day when the advertisements were people competing, you know, my coverage is better, better than yours. And I even remember there were ads about, you know, an ATNT was, was investing heavily in building where they would have the guys in the building popping ceiling tiles and talking about the network in the building being better.

So there has been a competitive drive for the carriers and there are still some cases where the carriers will. There are third parties that, um, you know, that are, you know, remnants, a lot of them are tower companies that installed and owned and operate these systems in the buildings. And they're basically getting the carriers to pay just like they would on a, on a cell tower.

And they're installing these systems in the building. So there are funding sources there where they will own and operate the system. And in some [00:25:00] cases provide the landlord with some rent. And that's kind of where the industry was for awhile. Landlords were saying, what am I going to get out of this? I'm going to let somebody put all this infrastructure in my building and they're going to provide services to my tenants.

What's in it for me. Um, how do I get compensated? And that was the business model and the carriers played along for a while, but then the carriers basically said, no, we're not, we're not doing that. We're not playing that game, but we've got so much money invested in buying new spectrum. We're building out fiber throughout our network and we're doing this massive 5g upgrade where they're upgrading all of the cell sites outside the building.

So the in-building space is right now in a position where it's not getting a lot of attention from the carriers from a funding perspective. So their perspective right now is a little bit more of, if you pay us, we may give you a single source. Um, but that's about it. But if you want to do it, you should pay for it.

Uh, Mr. Landlord, [00:26:00] got it. Okay.

[00:26:02] James Dice: Okay. And then what, where are we at from like what the tenants want perspective? Like, what are the exceptions. I know that's a really blanket question in terms of, it's probably not the same in all markets, but what are you guys seeing with your clients?

[00:26:17] Greg Jones: Well, what we're seeing, what we're seeing, you know, and this is kind of where wifi comes into this.

What, what we've seen is that most of the tenants can't really wait for the carriers or the landlords to solve for this. So historically tenants have taken care of all technology in their space. Anyway. So for most, for most enterprise customers, they're putting in an enhanced wifi network, they're leveraging their, their own wifi for wifi calling.

So they're basically taking that out of the hands of the carrier, because it's a much more complicated transaction. If I'm an enterprise customer, I can put in wifi, I can set the security standards for that wifi on my own. So I can have some of that network security and I can [00:27:00] take care of my space. Can I take care of the lobby or the transition from the lobby to the elevator?

No, I can't. Is that a big deal? For some, but for most you're worried about people working in your space. We are seeing a lot of landlords invest in Wi-Fi outside of the tenant space. Um, amenity spaces, lobbies rooftop decks, landlords are investing in wifi to provide coverage there because the beauty of wifi is I don't need the carriers to participate.

I get an internet circuit from who's ever in my building, and I distribute that wifi within, within my, my space. And that's why you see that the penetration of DAS in commercial office is less than 10%, but the wifi participation is. Every building has multiple wifi networks. As, as we all know, as we try and pick up a wifi network, there's about 15 or 20 that pop up on our phone.

[00:28:00] Um, so you know, people are solving this with wifi and wifi is getting faster and more secure. So that's kind of been the solution for a lot of, uh, of tenants and a lot of landlords that said, I can't really get a DAS. I can't control that transaction because I can't control the carriers, but I can control the wifi elements of it.

And that's what we're seeing. A lot of people use as, as the, as the solution. Got it.

[00:28:26] James Dice: Got it. And I'm hesitant here because I feel like a lot of people know how wifi works, but we do want to just take that as our next category then, and go do a little bit of a deep dive on how that works. Uh, what. What the different infrastructure pieces of that are.

And then how is it, how's it handled from a landlord tenant perspective? I think, I think you've covered

[00:28:47] Greg Jones: that last piece already. Yeah. I mean, from, from, from a wifi perspective, you know, you're distributing your, the signal, you're distributing a signal, but the signal that you're distributing is really, uh, you [00:29:00] can control that.

You don't have to ask the carrier for permission to broadcast. You're basically broadcasting in a range of frequency range of, uh, and you're, you're able to distribute that based on the number of antennas that you deploy. And most of these systems are now, um, advanced they're cloud operated. So you're using advanced technology to figure out how many wireless access points you need.

And there are security more and more security built in. So the network can be secured. Um, you know, the, the, the concern with wifi was always sort of that public wifi. You log in and you're concerned that somebody could, could steal your traffic or et cetera, but in a, in a commercial office space, the it department and the ability to secure the wifi is sort of a bit more managed.

There are lots of challenges with wifi in terms of oversaturation and where you've got congestion and managing multiple wifi networks in a commercial office building is, is a challenge. The [00:30:00] reality is the landlord is not really in a position to police that because each tenant is responsible for their own lease space.

So as a landlord, um, getting involved in policing people's wifi coverage is dropping three floors below and above is really not an area where they really have much ability to control that. So I think wifi and wifi continues to evolve and we're seeing wifi replace a lot of the cabling in, in office buildings.

Um, and so we're seeing it from that perspective and we're seeing it broadly as an alternative to, to DAS because the DAS distribution is so much more expensive and wifi is relatively inexpensive. You do not need a base station. You take your existing internet circuit. You, you have a power over ethernet switch and you have an antenna mounted in the ceiling and that's, that's a relatively straight forward.

[00:30:54] James Dice: Can you talk about wifi from the standpoint of connecting sensors, connecting thermostats, [00:31:00] connecting all types of what used to be OT systems that were hardwired on them. And they're now being connected more and more on to wifi networks. Can you talk about that trend? Does that creating any challenges or what's the, what are sort of the trends there that are happening in that?

[00:31:14] Greg Jones: Yeah, I mean, it's, it's creating some challenges because the manufacturer that's sort of specking the equipment is putting in the frequency that can be that their device will pick up. And there's no real testing to determine whether that frequency is, is congested or is available in the, in that particular building.

So you're on the 2.4. That's all. You've got you plug it in and you've got such saturation that your lighting control system canola can't talk, can't find the network. So, you know, there, there are elements of that that are, that are out there. We, we see landlords where they can't get a DAS installed. We do a lot of wifi for common areas for engineering.

So we create wireless networks so that the engineers can, you know, [00:32:00] get a connection to, you know, do work order management on a tablet and things like that. Um, we see sensor data, we see a lot of companies deploying cellular, um, because they know they can, they can purchase a card from Verizon, um, and be able to get a connection, hopefully anywhere, anywhere they want.

The reality is if they're in a building where there is no cell phone, Um, it's not, we don't know that until you deploy it. So, you know, I'm specking in equipment. I have a card with Verizon. I'm deploying that network and it's going out to a local integrator. That's installing it. And if the coverage isn't sufficient, what do I do then?

You know, I can't really solve for that locally. So

[00:32:43] James Dice: I did want to ask you about that. I'm glad you brought that up. Um, around a lot of vendors, that's their preferred, you know, smart building technology, IOT vendors. That's their preferred connectivity method because they feel like it takes the, it. You know, a big headache [00:33:00] out of the equation, right?

We're just going to connect. We just know we can do it. What does that mean from a security standpoint, when you have a bunch of different cell cards strung throughout the building. So you mentioned it from a reliability standpoint, but what about the security standpoint?

[00:33:15] Greg Jones: Well, from a securities perspective, you know, the, the, the LT and the, and the, the carrier networks are, are, have network encryption.

So from a security. Standpoint, the network is, is, is secure, you know, arguably more secure than a public wifi connection. And you can create a wifi connection that is secure to support that same device, but your, your problem or your challenges that you are going to have to interface with somebody at the building on an it level and that, uh, brain damage for that.

If I'm in the supplier is often, uh, you know, a big challenge. So I would rather just rely on a cell card to do that. Now, the coverage on those cell cards, and we have this happen all the time where folks have, [00:34:00] you know, cellular modems distributed throughout a building, and the connection is spotty and the data doesn't flow.

Um, You know, that's just the reality that we're living in. So having a wired connection and having that device connected to a hardwired connection with a V LAN and good, good bandwidth is preferred. It's just harder to maintain. But I think as buildings, you know, move towards converged networks and have provisions for connecting devices, I think, you know, we'll be wireless to a point, but we're going to, you know, ultimately there's going to be a connection there.

And I think that, you know, w we'll see that continue to evolve. And a lot of cases that provider doesn't think a landlord has any network at all, and doesn't want to jump on another network because it requires them to coordinate with, you know, to share infrastructure and to coordinate with folks.

Whereas the cellular device is relatively standalone. Yep.

[00:34:54] James Dice: Hey guys, just another quick note from our sponsor Nexus labs. And then we'll get back to the show. [00:35:00] This episode is brought to you by nexus foundations, our introductory course on the smart buildings industry. If you're new to the industry, this course is for you. If you're an industry vet, but want to understand how technology is changing things.

This course is also for you. The alumni are raving about the content, which they say pulls it all together, and they also love getting to meet the other students on the weekly zoom calls and in the private chat room, you can find out more about the course@courses.nexus lab. Start online. All right, back to the interview Okay, cool. What's our next technology you want to.

[00:35:34] Greg Jones: Um, I, I don't, I, maybe we could talk a little bit about CBRS, which is, which is a spectrum that the government, uh, released for use for, um, uh, wireless connectivity and it's localized to a building.

So you, you can use this network within your building. So it's a, it's, it's a, it's an, it's an incredible opportunity for landlords to, to get [00:36:00] spectrum that they can use at their building. Um, the challenge that we're facing with CBRS and the distribution is similar in the sense that you've got, uh, antennas connected to, uh, wired devices.

To, to, to switches or, or devices that are, you know, back to a head. And the signal source is not, um, is not required to be provided by others. I E the cell carriers, you basically connecting it to the cloud and it's got some great potential. The challenge right now is that we just don't have, you know, we don't have the ability from a, from a business perspective to, to really monetize it.

So know people would say, well, it's great. I could put in the CBRS network and yeah, I could use it for base building connectivity, but how many of my vendors and systems and IOT devices can, can function on CBRS right now? Not a lot. And if you're talking about using it for cellular, if I could take the traffic in the building, I have to hand [00:37:00] it off to the cellular network at some point.

And if I can't hand it off to Verizon or at, and T or T-Mobile, then it's going to die in my building, which doesn't really help me from the cellular perspective. So I think CBRS is a technology that has tons of promise and it's exciting because it's localized. Um, It puts a big onus on the landlord to understand the technology.

And since there's no real monetization around it, that's where the business decided it comes into play, where you're telling the landlord to invest a million dollars in putting in a CVRs network without an ROI. Um, I think most of them are going to pass on, on that until it's more fleshed out. Yeah.

[00:37:42] James Dice: What are the potential ways in which they might get compensated, then there have to be, there has to be ideas cause I've seen a lot of hype around CPRS.

Yeah.

[00:37:49] Greg Jones: I mean, part of it is the cellular carriers, you know, paying, you know, for the handoff, you know, and that's kind of the question is, you know, ultimately the [00:38:00] cell carriers are the only one that are benefiting from people using their network. No one else benefits from that. So if you're going to expand their network and you're building DS CBRS or.

Are they going to get a free ride because you have to provide it because your tenants expect it or are they willing to pay for it. And they don't have the capability to, you know, the scale to put in a system in every commercial office building in the world. There's no way. So there's got to be business models and ways to hand that traffic off.

And there are some, but they're just not mature enough where people can, you know, make us compelling argument from an ROI and do it at scale where an owner can go do it in, you know, 50 buildings across the country and know that they're going to get a return on that. So, you know, lots of people are trying to figure that out.

And I, you know, I'm, I'm not sure that it's going to be solved anytime soon. I do know that the technology is exciting and a lot of this technology is exciting, but exciting technology. In commercial [00:39:00] real estate, um, always, uh, has a bit of a, uh, there's always a clash there because landlords inherently are out to make a profit.

And every dollar they invest in the asset adds to the value of that asset. And every dollar that they spend operating that building has an impact on their net operating income and a building is valued based on its net operating income. So if I'm incurring a bunch of additional costs, I better make sure you're getting some value from that.

And that's, you know, that comes back to sort of the core of commercial real estate is, is making sure that it can pencil for the landlord. Yeah, totally. Um,

[00:39:39] James Dice: couple of high-level questions before I move on from that one, what does the acronym stand for? First of all

[00:39:45] Greg Jones: for a citizens band radio service. And then

[00:39:50] James Dice: I just wanted to circle back on how well you, can you restate how CBRS and DAS are different.

I'm still

[00:39:57] Greg Jones: learning all. Yeah, no, [00:40:00] no. It's so, so for DAS, the, the frequency and the signal strength, the signal itself is owned by the, by the carriers. They have the FCC license to operate that frequency. Then you have to ride other network with CBRS. That spectrum is granted to the, to the, the operator at that, at that localized location, government grants, you the right to use CBRS spectrum in your, in your building.

And there's a whole business model around how you register your spectrum, how you monitor your spectrum, how you report your spectrum. So there's an entire. Ecosystem, that's evolving around how you registered to get your spectrum. Okay. And then, so, so that's sort of why it's a bit in its infancy. If, if I contrast that with wifi, I could go buy wireless access points.

I can run a cable to my, my switch or my, my [00:41:00] router. And I can, I can basically manage that out of the box very easily, uh, CBRS. I've got a lot of extra work to do to get it to work. And that's sort of what. We see wifi adoption, um, so much greater than anything else because the control can be localized, um, to, you know, per user, per tenant,

[00:41:23] James Dice: no CPRS.

They might be able to have their own spectrum, but then that at some point they then need to, you're saying, pass that traffic over to the carrier to complete,

[00:41:31] Greg Jones: uh, unless if I'm, you know, if I'm an operator and I want to have my own spectrum and I want to use it and I it's CBRS is a little bit, um, you know, has some security advantages over wifi.

I would use it instead of wifi. I would use it for, you know, digital signage and, you know, there's, there is thought James, that, you know, for base building systems, that's what people are going to want to use because they can keep it localized. Um, you know, maybe that's where it goes, but I think it's a little bit too soon [00:42:00] to tell it is nice that it's localized and I can control it.

And I own it at the building level. Um, I'm not relying on third parties or multinational companies to control the spectrum in my building. I can control it. But as a landlord who hasn't really gotten that deep into technology for most things, maybe I don't want to own and control that. Yeah.

[00:42:20] James Dice: Yep. Yep. At least Intel, you're saying more infrastructure is built up around it and monetization yeah.

Happens. Um, okay. So what about 5g then? Where does that.

[00:42:34] Greg Jones: Well, 5g has tremendous promise from a, um, you know, the advantages of, of 5g are much higher bandwidth, so we can do much more with our devices that are connected to 5g, lower latency. Um, so you know, it, it, it, it will be a game changer from, from a technology perspective.

The challenge is, is that, you know, we talked a little bit about the cost of deploying DAS and the [00:43:00] challenge with 5g is it requires more density. So it needs more tests. The frequency doesn't go quite as far. So I really need to increase the amount of infrastructure I install. So one of the big challenges we've had for DAS deployment has been the cost.

So, you know, there are, there are elements of desk deployments that the costs have come down. But, you know, like anything, if I add more antennas, then that means I have more technicians running, more cable, installing more antennas in the ceiling and in a retrofit environment that's after hours that, you know, there's, there's all sorts of stuff that goes along with more installation.

So that's kind of one of the challenges. And the other challenge is from a carrier perspective, you know, the, where they're funding right now is 5g outside of the. So, you know, we will see 5g, you know, it's happening right now. A lot of the cell towers are being upgraded to 5g. The devices are being upgraded into 5g, so it's happening, but the in-building space is not [00:44:00] necessarily, um, you know, at the top of the list, the in-building space has been, you know, again with the exception of the public venues or hospitality or things like that.

Commercial office is sort of, you know, not at the top of the list for when they're going to get their 5g upgrade. And then again, who's going to pay for it. Um, you know, that's, that's the question is, is the carrier going to participate in the fact that they're going to be able to provide more bandwidth and potentially make more money, or is that the responsibility of the landlord to make sure the carriers are making a lot of money?

I think some landlords have a problem with that. Got it. Yeah. You

[00:44:36] James Dice: see, in terms of everything we've talked about today, 5g is something you see so much hype in advertisement. Who hoopla around right at this point, where, where are we at in that sort of hype cycle for

[00:44:50] Greg Jones: 5g? I, well, I mean, it's, it's happening and it's kind of like the, I mean, part of, it's a marketing thing to get you to buy new devices and, we're seeing we're seeing it, [00:45:00] but from a deployment standpoint and what, what it does mean from a landlord perspective and from an integrator perspective is if I'm putting in a system right now, I'd better make sure I have a migration plan for 5g.

And that's kind of where, you know, we, we do have that example. When the carriers went out about 10 years ago and installed these DAS systems back then they were, they had multiple frequencies, they were supporting, and they had different, uh, uh, different head end equipment for, for each system. So it was very expensive to add all these sectors when you go to 5g, What does that mean?

Does it mean I have to rip and replace everything I've already installed? Like how do I. From 4g, LTE to 5g, to potentially whatever's next does, what does that require? And, you know, I think from the manufacturer's side, the goal is to make it so that it's software defined changes so that once you've installed the infrastructure I E, or fiber and your electronics, it's a software defined change.[00:46:00]

So it's not, you know, not rip and replace a new antennas everywhere, but, you know, that's, that's sort of the challenge. What I think would 5g is doing for a lot of landlords. It's like most things with technology, it's creating confusion, leads to an action. Like, shoot, I don't want to install the wrong thing because the minute I do this, I'm going to have to upgrade.

And where am I going to be? So I think it does, you know, it's sort of a victim of its own hype where people are kind of, you know, going to wait it out. Um, so, you know, I, I think, I think the jury is it's it's happening. It will happen. It's we're not going to go. We're not going back to 3g, but how it gets deployed.

And again, who pays for it is, you know, w will be something that we'll probably be witnessing for the next couple. Yeah.

[00:46:48] James Dice: Yeah, totally. Okay. I think this is the last one, but I wanted to ask you about Laura LoRaWAN so Laura LAN, I know it's not so much, not very prevalent from the standpoint of your customers, [00:47:00] but it seems like it's showing up kind of like we talked about earlier with the wireless sensors and thermostats and things showing up more and more on the vendor side of things.

Right. So I'm trying to install a new IAQ sensor network and it's going to connect to itself and then connect to the cloud via LoRaWAN gateway. Um, can you kind of talk about this and how it's showing up these days?

[00:47:23] Greg Jones: I think what we're all, you know, on the internet and, you know, back on the, on the building system side of the IOT world and all the hype and all the cool technology that's supporting sensor data, I think, you know, getting information from a sensor to a gateway and then ultimately to the cloud.

It's super exciting and compelling is going to change the way buildings are managed. I think the lower land example probably we'll find it's, you know, it's, it's, it's, it's footing predominantly in a single use owned facilities, distribution, plants, factories, and other things where the it's not a multi-tenant environment where the owner [00:48:00] operator is willing to make the investment in the technology because they see the benefit.

So the business case for LoRaWAN will be how do I operate my factory or my logistics plant more efficiently. And that technology, when you compare it to traditional wired technology has some cost benefit savings for it. And the commercial office space, you know, maybe bits, you know, parts and, and, you know, for, for the mechanical rooms or the cooling towers.

And. But broadly throughout a commercial office building, you know, introducing another technology in the building and another siloed network, um, is probably going to be a bit more of a, uh, of a heavier lift. That's why, what we're saying on the building side is the more we can normalize the transmission to be ether, net, um, IP based, the more we can layer on different systems.

So we're saying, you know, everybody's sort of using, you know, moving from moving to IP as the, as the [00:49:00] standard thing. And we're seeing wireless more and more, but it's wireless to a gateway. Gateway has an IP connection, and then we take it from there, you know, throughout the building and out to the cloud and, and, and, and the rest of it.

I definitely think there's applications for lots of these. There are lots of other wireless protocols, um, designed to mitigate the amount of wiring. But, uh, you know, I, I think we'll see them have certain applications, but maybe not as broad in the commercial space as others. Got it. Got

[00:49:29] James Dice: it. Okay. Can you, can you sort of summarize then everything we just talked about?

So we talked about all these different technologies, where would you. I guess, well, I want to get to is how do you get started? How do you think about like, how to make decisions in this, in this environment, but first, can you sort of summarize kind of where we're at as an industry with all these different

[00:49:51] Greg Jones: technologies?

Yeah. I think we're where, we're where we are is the, obviously, you know, we're all using our phones much more, [00:50:00] much more than ever. We want everything on an app. We expect our phone to work, um, wherever we are and we want that mobility plays. So what does that mean for a commercial office owner and operator.

Do I need to put in a distributed antenna system. Um, how do I do that? And is it something that I'm going to pay for, um, army tenant's going to participate in that, you know, the leasing environment is changing. You know, obviously we're all, you know, kind of very cognizant of what's going on in commercial real estate.

How are we going to get tenants back to the office? How are we going to make our building more desirable? So for some landlords, you know, putting in making sure there's cellular everywhere, It's going to be table stakes, they have to do it. And they're going to make that investment for other landlords.

They're going to basically push it back to the tenant and say, you know, solve for it on your own. And we, we have a hard time corralling the carriers, so we're not going to do that. So I don't know where that's going to end up. I do know, you know, for new buildings, um, the cost of deploying a DAS at a new build is a [00:51:00] little bit, uh, less expensive than a retrofit, which is really, really expensive.

And you know, some of the new, uh, building materials like Lowy glass really make it difficult for the signal outside of the building to get in. So we can't really rely on the macro network to, to solve it. So I've seen in a lot of new developments where a DAS infrastructure is either installed or at the very least the infrastructure requirements are met.

I E conduit space and a conditioned room where the equipment could go and, or space on the rooftop for antennas. So I think, you know, smart landlord. Designing in, you know, the flexibility from an infrastructure perspective to accommodate these technologies. But it's, you know, it's difficult to bet on a technology when you're not sure which way it's going.

And also it comes down to who owns it and operates it. If I'm a commercial building owner, I don't really want to own and operate a wireless network in my building. [00:52:00] Um, I may not have the staff to do that, and that's not something that I want to take on from a liability standpoint. So there's, there's lots of questions about that, but I do think that, you know, cellular in the building is something that tenants expect people expect and whether the tenants are going to help pay for it via, you know, cam charges or whether they're going to pay for it installed in their space is, you know, is going to get a very based on tenant lease terms and where you are in the cycle.

[00:52:31] James Dice: So as far as the different technologies we talked about. Where am I? It sounds like wifi is happening no matter what,

[00:52:39] Greg Jones: and it's happening, you're going to have wifi, you know, in most places, the tenants are going to have wifi on their floors. Landlords are going to have wifi for common areas, engineering and other locations that you're going to have wifi, whether you can eliminate wifi by having a DAS, you know, it's not an either or it's probably an ad and, and yeah.

[00:52:59] James Dice: If you can make the [00:53:00] business business play that. Got it. Cool. All right. Well, thanks Greg. I feel like. And primed. I caught up on all the different happenings in CRE office

[00:53:14] Greg Jones: wireless. Thank you. Yeah, no, my, my, and I think one of the things that's interesting that there's lots of companies out there that are doing the distributing these solutions and trying to figure out a way to make it work.

The costs, um, you know, are coming down a little bit, but it's still, you know, our barrier to entry here is the cost of deploying these networks is, is still pretty significant. Um, you know, if it's $3 a foot to deploy a fully full neutral host task, you know, that's, that could, that can be a significant barrier for, for certain, for certain buildings.

Absolutely.

[00:53:47] James Dice: Absolutely. And then what about the management of it as well? How much are people costing or spending in terms of the ongoing maintenance of a system like that

[00:53:56] Greg Jones: as well? Pretty significant, you know, depending on the, you've [00:54:00] got back haul and you've also got the monitoring and maintenance of the equipment.

So you're, you know, you're in, you're in for, you know, five to $10,000 a month, you know, and if you've take that, uh, uh, cap rate, that's a pretty significant hit to a NOI for some, for some buildings, for other buildings. It's, it's not much. You know, the sensitivity on that, um, you know, will, will vary based on landlord and w you know, again, some, in some cases, tenants won't lease space.

They say they won't leave space without it, but ultimately the real estate decision comes down to a lot of factors. Um, and not just one or two. So there's, it's hard to say how much it translates into lease rates. Um, and that's the argument that everybody always makes when they're selling something to a landlord.

Oh, you can increase your rent. Okay. How do you, how do you know that? You know,

[00:54:53] James Dice: it's not just about that one factor.

[00:54:55] Greg Jones: Yeah.

[00:54:57] James Dice: Got it. Well, always a pleasure [00:55:00] to chat. I'd love to end with some carve-outs. So we've been doing this for the last six months or so, any books, podcasts, TV shows, movies. You'd recommend people checking.

Yeah, professional, wireless related

[00:55:13] Greg Jones: or not? No, I I'm actually watching I'm I'm watching we crash right now and it's fascinating because we sort of lived through the whole, we work and we actually, at one point we were in a, we work office in New York, um, for a while, and to sort of see. And all of the questions that we were asking, uh, you know, how does this pencil and how can this possibly work are being born out, um, in, in the series.

So it's pretty interesting to have lived through it and to watch it. Um, and it's also fascinating. It does, you know, highlight sort of technology and commercial real estate and how, you know, for, for, we works all of the, you know, ills, you can say, what it really did was, you know, really helped landlords [00:56:00] understand that tenants want the space and getting a lease and getting a space fit out and getting the technology and getting all that in a commercial office building is really very, very difficult.

And most companies want, you know, simplicity around that. And that's why you see while we work as sort of evolving and changing, a lot of landlords are doing their own coworking and are using technology as a differentiator and as a way to legitimately charge more. Um, so there, you know, they, they took the examples of we work and are using it internally to, to make their spaces more desirable, shorter term leases, um, more rent and all that.

So I think it is interesting sort of having lived through it, to kind of watch it back, um, and to kind of be kind of, you know, be a fly on the wall to see what was potentially going on inside that office. Well, we, on the outside, we're going, what are they doing? How is that going to work? How can they pay that much?

You know, all that. And it's, you know, it, [00:57:00] it didn't, it didn't work from some perspective, but it did push the industry in a direction that I think is easier for tenants to get their arms around. Yeah. I

[00:57:09] James Dice: watched the first three episodes, I think, of that series. And then I kind of got like a little bit sick of characters, even though they're the acting is incredible on that show.

I just kind of got a little bit sick of them. Uh, I'll probably return back to that at some point. Um, I'm going to take us on a different direction. So I've been gardening. It's like spring has sprung in Colorado here right now. Um, which when this comes out, it'll be like mid-summer, but just pretend that spring people who are listening to this, and I got this, um, we'll put the link to the show notes.

It's a, um, worm composting bin with holes in it. It's called sub pod and you bury it in your garden. And then the worms, you know, eat your food, break, break, all your food waste down, and then they swim back out into your garden, beds and fertilize. And then they come back for the food [00:58:00] every day. It's really the genius genius design.

And then there's a net. Netflix recommends a recommendation. I would recommend to go with this. It's called fantastic fun guy. It's a documentary. Everybody should check it out. It's mind blowing. Um, that's all I'll say. I'll just leave that for people to go. Just trust me. Go watch. Fantastic fun

[00:58:19] Greg Jones: guy. Nice.

Well, I, we I've witnessed my, we watched biggest little farm and then it's my wife that we needed chickens to change our soil. And then the chickens became. Brought the rats and we wanted to get an owl box. So, you know, all that stuff played out in a, in a residential neighborhood didn't work out so well.

So we, we, we went down that road for a while and, uh, uh, have now gone back to basics and scrap that, but, but do have the compost bin that we are, that we are using. Nice.

[00:58:50] James Dice: Yeah. I'm keeping it very, very basic. Couple of worms pile, a couple of gardens, little tomato action going on. That's it. That's all right, Greg.

Well, [00:59:00] thanks for coming on the show. Appreciate it.

[00:59:01] Greg Jones: Thank you, James. Appreciate it. And thanks for all you're doing to help educate and enlighten us on all this wonderful technology that's impacting commercial real estate. So thank you. And for everybody that's participating in the, in your, in your community.

It's awesome. My pleasure.

[00:59:14] James Dice: All right friends, thanks for listening to this episode of the Nexus Podcast. For more episodes like this and to get the weekly Nexus Newsletter, which by the way, readers have said is the best way to stay up to date on the future of the smart building industry, please subscribe at nexuslabs.online. You can find the show notes for this conversation there as well. Have a great day.