As 5G mobile technology is rolled out across Australia, landlords holding commercial buildings already suffering from poor mobile coverage will need to act fast to keep their tenants happy.

“Any building that is experiencing mobile coverage issues, it’s only going to get worse as soon as 5G becomes more prevalent and some of the older services are switched off,” Eden Dwek, head of global expansion at WiredScore, told APAC Real Estate.

Major telcos such as Telstra and Optus have already switched on super-fast 5G coverage in selected areas of the country and businesses are ready to jump on board.

According to a 2018 Deloitte survey of more than 550 business leaders in Australia, more than two thirds of surveyed businesses expect to be using 5G before the end of 2020.

The lack of fast and reliable internet also comes at a cost, with an hour of internet downtime costing a business A$450,000 on average, according to research firm Gartner.

Eden Dwek (image: WiredScore)

As commercial tenants shift towards 5G technology, commercial landlords will have to ensure their assets are 5G-friendly.

When WiredScore, the global rating scheme for digital connectivity in real estate, launched in Australia in 2019, the team noticed mobile coverage challenges straight away.

“The average size of buildings in Australia, particularly in the Sydney and Melbourne CBDs, are larger than those in the UK,” said Dwek.

He said most buildings suffered from mobile coverage issues because mobile cell towers in external environments were pointed towards ground level, where most mobile users traditionally used their phones.

“As soon as you build a building that is more than 10 floors, you start to experience more coverage issues at higher floors,” he said.

He added that energy efficient glass, which can block radio waves, also contributed to poor mobile coverage in commercial buildings.

Dwek said the mobile coverage problem for taller commercial buildings could get worse under 5G.

“Because of the benefits around speed, capacity and latency, the signal frequency which 5G operates at is higher than 4G,” he said. “Therefore the signal is less penetrating throughout buildings.”

To address the poor mobile coverage within commercial properties, Dwek said there was an increasing demand for “in-building mobile solutions”.

In-building mobile solutions are made up of a series of antennas and electronic equipment that take a mobile carrier signal and distribute it throughout the building.

“As we see fewer and fewer desk phones, tenants are not going to be able to operate with a handful of staff standing on a balcony trying to get a signal because they can’t get hold of clients from within the office,” Dwek said.

“If landlords aren’t able to install this equipment, then they are going to have to offer discounts on rent because tenants are going to have to take that cost on board.”

He added that premium and grade A will also be required to have in-building mobile solutions under new guidelines released last year.

To get landlords thinking about how 5G might be used in their buildings, WiredScore has split 5G users into three broad categories:

1. General public: the general public includes tenants within the building, as well as visitors to the building. They are going to expect a seamless 5G experience, starting from outside the building in the public realm through the building’s atrium, lifts and office floors. Landlords will have to work closely with network carriers to ensure they are covered in the building and have seamless coverage throughout.

2. Smart technology: landlords are starting to put together strategies for smart buildings to understand what they want to measure in their buildings and what insights they will gain from that data. They are also looking at what technology and equipment is going to allow them to collect that data. A lot of that equipment will likely run off 5G, therefore they need to ensure that they are able to deliver coverage to areas of the building where the general public may not be situated, but their smart sensors may be such as lift shafts.

3. Landlord employees: landlord employees include building managers and other technical staff, who will be looking to gain real-time data from smart sensors. They will often operate in parts of the building which traditionally wouldn’t have any mobile coverage such as basements and rooftops. In order for them to gain insights from the plethora of smart sensors throughout the building, they need to ensure they can pick up signals in the basement. When landlords are designing space in the building such as where they put future mobile antennas, they need to think about how the building is going to be used and what the requirements of 5G users are in the building.

In Australia, WiredScore has certified numerous buildings since launching in the country last year.

This week, WiredScore awarded a Platinum rating to the 101 Collins Street office building in Melbourne, giving it the highest digital connectivity ranking in the scheme.

Barangaroo South precinct
Barangaroo South precinct

The Melbourne asset joins nine other buildings in France and the UK owned by France’s AXA Investment Managers – Real Assets that have achieved WiredScore certification.

WiredScore has also certified 14 of Lendlease’s commercial properties across Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, including four buildings at its Barangaroo South precinct in Sydney.

The company awarded the Platinum rating to Lendlease’s International House Sydney and International Towers 1, 2 and 3, as well as its new Circular Quay Tower development.

Other Platinum-rated buildings include the Empire State building in New York, The Shard in London, and Willis Tower in Chicago.

WiredScore was founded in New York in 2013, and now operates in nine countries.

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