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The business case for better indoor mobile coverage

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/ESB Professional)

Mobile phone coverage is something we take for granted until we don’t have it, and then it becomes one of our biggest frustrations. The rapid growth of smartphones has led us to simply expect the convenience of always being connected. And it’s not just in our personal lives that this expectation of always-on connectivity is having an impact.

Smartphones have changed people’s lives in a revolutionary way. Traditional mobile-industry business models are either dying or already dead.  Remember when a minute of talk-time used to cost over 30p?  With current business models, getting even modest levels of revenue growth requires high levels of capital investment.  Usually in the order of 10 per cent to 15 per cent of total revenue. The popularity of devices packed with apps for productivity, entertainment and wellbeing has seen mobile networks hit with an avalanche of data.  In the last eight years, data volumes have grown 24-fold while the price per megabyte has fallen by well over 95 per cent.  Only very rarely in history has a single industry managed to cut prices by so much in such a short time.

The industry has achieved a lot in the last decade.  It now has a solid foundation for the future.  4G rollout, simpler business processes, mergers, network sharing and automation have seen costs fall dramatically.  Data growth has moderated as smartphone ownership has peaked.  There is only so much data that can be funnelled through the medium of a 5-inch screen.  We can see the evidence of a new-found confidence in the industry with the rollout of new uncapped data tariffs across Europe.  Industry operating margins have improved and the return on capital has returned to sustainable levels.

Today, mobile operators have a unique opportunity. Technology advances have radically reduced costs. The possibility of exciting new business models is enticing. We are entering the smart, connected world.  The era of dumb, disconnected products is ending. Technology has radically disrupted industries like finance, retail, music and entertainment. There will be lots more to come.

Mobile connectivity is vital

Mobile connectivity is now crucial for day-to-day business operations. Poor indoor mobile coverage threatens productivity, revenue, reputational damage and customer satisfaction.

The only problem? If you’re trying to use your phone indoors, the risk is you may struggle to get signal.

The fact is building regulations have failed to adapt to the needs of mobile networks. Both old and new construction standards present serious barriers when it comes to guaranteeing the mobile coverage that people and businesses need indoors.

Solving the indoor connectivity conundrum

For business owners, the crux of the issue is that they haven’t had to think about indoor mobile coverage before. Unfamiliar terms and technical language mean it’s been seen as someone else’s problem and not a business driver.

The ever-increasing reliance on mobile devices means that the issue of in-building signal is no longer tomorrow’s problem. It is something that can no longer be ignored and needs to be solved today.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that business owners need to suddenly become experts in mobile networks and RF technology – far from it. Any credible partner will be able to handle the in-depth technicalities of a business’s requirements such as coverage areas, user requirements and even RF power levels with the appropriate commercial offer.

However, there are some crucial things that business owners can do to ensure they are paying for the right solution for their premises. More diligence when buying a new premise or renting a new workspace isn’t much to ask, especially as network black spots can be easily identified upfront.

Every building is unique but all you need to answer is three simple things to get started with a supplier to install a reliable solution with minimal fuss:

What is the make-up of your office/premise?

  • How many floors do you have? How many people need to be supported? The area of your space in m2? Where is it essential to have the best signal?
  • What will your premises be used for and what services are required?
  • For devices to operate effectively, what specifications (2G/3G/4G/5G) and speeds do you require?
  • Is multi-operator coverage required?
  • Are all of your employees on the same network? Will there be multiple people bringing their own device?

For too long businesses have been unaware of how they can take charge of solving the issue of indoor coverage. These simple questions mean that owners can confidently spec out a solution that will be right for their business and their employees.

Put the power in your hands

The drivers behind extending the reach of full bar indoor mobile coverage are clear – it is essential for work, retail and leisure. As with Wi-Fi 10 years ago, the technology is invisible, and people were slow to adopt it, but the demand only grew and now you don’t go anywhere without expecting it – indoor mobile coverage is on the same path.

Put the power back in your hands to improve indoor mobile coverage in your buildings so that business doesn’t suffer.

Seán Keating, CEO, Vilicom

Sean Keating leads Vilicom's wireless business providing consultancy, project management, mobile coverage solutions and testing services for clients in telecoms, property management, transportation, energy, manufacturing and healthcare industries.