Beyond Wi-Fi: Is cellular taking over?

Pro AV has used Wi-Fi for years. Tim Kridel explores why integrators should consider adding cellular to their portfolio.

When people need to reach you, they probably dial your mobile number first. And sometimes they have to leave a voicemail because there’s no signal where you are. Those are two examples of why there are multiple opportunities for AV integrators to add cellular to their portfolio.

Real estate developers and building owners increasingly see seamless, reliable indoor cellular coverage as a must-have for attracting and retaining tenants simply because so many businesspeople rely on their mobile phone. Some developers say solid indoor cellular coverage has become a market differentiator the way that having a building on or near an internet point of presence was 15 or 20 years ago.

“The trends are definitely pointing towards increased deployment of distributed antenna systems (DAS) in the building,” says Dave Tanis, director of enterprise strategic marketing at CommScope, a telecom vendor. “We are still in an early phase. However, this is becoming top of mind for real estate companies, as building occupants are viewing wireless connectivity as a utility, just like electricity, water, etc. and expect to have good coverage throughout the building.”

For mobile operators, the business case for improving indoor coverage goes beyond bragging rights and attracting customers willing to pay a premium for reliable service. Reliable indoor coverage is a way to convince businesses to migrate more or even all of their wireline telephony spending to cellular.

Many AV integrators already offer Wi-Fi as an option for connecting devices such as displays and surveillance cameras in locations where fibre and copper backhaul are expensive or impractical. Some now also offer Wi-Fi network design and installation to get additional revenue or to better compete with IT integrators muscling into pro AV. Even those that have no Wi-Fi experience still know how to pull a cable, which is a big part of what’s involved with installing cellular infrastructure indoors.

Those experiences have some companies looking to AV integrators for installing certain types of cellular infrastructure indoors. For example, at this year’s CES, Whitlock executive vice president Julian Phillips visited the booth of weBoost, which specialises in indoor cellular products.

“They definitely have a plan to target AV integrators because they see that we’re right there at the beginning of the buildout stage and often the guys doing certain aspects of the cabling,” Phillips says.

In the full article, Tim Kridel looks at the host of competitors vying for cellular opportunities as well as seeing where AV integrators can make use of their service or compete and ask the question: will cellular push wired and Wi-Fi to one side? R

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