Right up there with electricity and water, in-building wireless connectivity is now expected, leading to its common description as the fourth utility. As carriers scale back investment on connecting anything but marquee venues like sports stadiums, enterprises of all sizes and focuses are realizing the importance of ubiquitous cellular access.
To quantify this trend, let’s take a look at two research reports that project the market value of in-building wireless.
MarketsandMarkets pegged the value of the in-building wireless market at $4.83 billion in 2015, and expects a compound annual growth rate of 28.1%; that means the market will be worth $16.71 billion in 2020. “In terms of regions, North America is expected to be the largest market in terms of revenue contribution, while [Asia Pacific] is expected to experience increased market traction during the forecast period,” the authors wrote.
ABI Research agrees that North America will lead the spend on in-building wireless, but projected a more conservative value of $9 billion by 2020. That still represents a doubling of revenue, the authors point out.
“North America will continue to be the region with the most distributed antenna system spend,” said Nick Marshall, research director at ABI Research, calling out sports venues, transport hubs and health care facilities as the leading investors in DAS, followed by retail and hospitality.
Marshall said the APAC region will be “the fastest growing region,” going from one-fifth of the total market in 2016 to one-third by 2020, adding China would dominate spending.
These market trends are in lock-step with industry discussions with vendors looking to better serve enterprise customers, which often starts with market education and need identification.
Tony Eigen, an ExteNet marketing manager, said on the sidelines of the recent HetNet Expo in Houston, “I think there’s this whole kind of level of education that’s needed. What does wireless really mean? Then, ultimately, the discussions are around how does that get paid for.”
In terms of verticals, commercial real estate, including retail, is seen as a major growth area.
Paula Ramey, Simon Property Group director of field technology operations, says wireless infrastructure plays a big role in supporting the company’s goal of creating destination shopping venues.
“The thing that we’ve been challenged with, obviously, over the years with the increase in technology customers carry around around on a regular basis, is how do we make sure they’re fully connected when they visit our properties?” Ramey said. “The combination of both 4G LTE, cellular and Wi-Fi is a very important amenity to us for our customers. We’re also in a situation where it’s also become a business delivery vehicle for us.”