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Not All Networks Are Created Equal

Ever walk into a building and your cell signal immediately drops to one bar? No incoming calls, no outgoing calls—just disconnected silence. It’s a frustrating scenario and exactly why effective network design in buildings should be a universal reality. 

Network design variability can significantly impact everyday usability and functionality for everyone within the building, from tenants to visitors. For building owners, understanding that network designs and associated costs can vary widely—even for identical buildings—is key. This variability hinges on multiple factors, such as building layout, construction materials used, and specific technology needs, all of which must be carefully considered to implement reliable and efficient connectivity. 

In this blog, we explore why these differences exist and what critical questions you should ask when evaluating network designs and choosing a vendor.

Factors Influencing Design and Costs

The wide and varied world of network installation is filled with a variety of elements that each play a role in shaping both the design and the cost. Understanding these factors goes a long way in formatting a building so that the connectivity measures up to both current and future communications needs. 

Let’s break down the many components that play a part in outlining the design and costs:

Building Characteristics

  • Size and Layout: The larger the building, the more extensive the network coverage needs to be. Complex layouts with multiple floors or wings can require additional equipment for complete coverage.
  • Materials: Materials used in construction such as concrete, steel, and glass can significantly impede wireless signals. Buildings with such materials may need more sophisticated solutions to achieve effective signal penetration and coverage.

Technology Needs

  • Network Types: The choice between technologies like 5G and Wi-Fi depends on what the building will be used for. High-speed 5G networks might be necessary for buildings needing to support dense, high-bandwidth activities, whereas Wi-Fi might suffice for general internet usage.
  • Capacity and Scalability: It's important to not only consider current technology needs, but also plan for future scalability. This might mean installing infrastructure that can be easily upgraded as network technology evolves.

Regulations and Safety

  • Compliance: All network installations must comply with local, state, and federal regulations, which can include fire codes, safety standards, and other legal requirements. These vary depending on the building’s usage.
  • Public Safety Networks: Some regulations require buildings to have dedicated networks for emergency services so that first responders can communicate effectively in emergencies. This often necessitates additional specific equipment and design considerations. 

Choosing the Right Network Vendor

Network connectivity can make or break a building—metaphorically speaking, of course. Here, it all hinges on the choice of network vendor. If you choose poorly, connectivity problems will plague everyone who walks through the door. You’ll be stuck with frustrated tenants and it could very well impact potential lease renewals. Choose wisely and network connectivity can be a major selling point no matter the use-case of the building. 

Consider all factors when selecting a network provider, including:

1. Experience

Consider vendors who have previously worked on buildings similar to yours. Vendors with relevant experience are capable of working within the confines of a certain building size and use. What’s more, it also gives them a leg up when it comes to overcoming unforeseen challenges, such as architectural constraints that might affect signal distribution. For example, if you own a high-rise with multiple elevators and thick concrete walls, a vendor experienced with such environments will better circumvent these barriers to connectivity.

2. Customization

Every building stands as its own structure—and off-the-shelf solutions rarely meet all the specific needs. A vendor that can offer tailor-made solutions that adapt to your specific requirements will be invaluable. This could range from integrating advanced technologies like 5G into a century-old building to configuring networks that support both public and private connectivity seamlessly.

3. Cost

For many of us, it always comes down to cost. And rightfully so. Transparency in pricing must be a vital deciding factor. A trustworthy vendor should provide a clear breakdown of upfront installation costs, as well as ongoing maintenance expenses. It’s not just about choosing the vendor with the lowest bid, but understanding what you get for your money. Can they demonstrate a history of reducing costs through efficient designs or by leveraging existing infrastructure?

Key Questions to Ask When Choosing Your Network Vendor

Selecting a network vendor involves digging into the specifics of what each can offer beyond the basic numbers. This decision shapes your building’s connectivity experience, affecting everything from daily operations to long-term technological upgrades.

Now, let’s ask all the right questions!

  1. What similar projects have you completed? Could you provide case studies or references from these projects?
  1. How do you tailor network solutions to specific buildings? What approach do you take to accommodate unique architectural features and user needs?
  1. Which technologies do you recommend for our project and why? How do these choices compare to the latest advancements in network technology?
  1. Can you break down your pricing structure? What are the costs for installation, and what should we anticipate for ongoing maintenance?
  1. How do you enable compliance with local regulations and codes? What processes do you have in place for integrating emergency communication systems?
  1. What strategies do you employ to manage high traffic and build with scalability in mind? How can the network be upgraded to accommodate future technology needs?
  1. What is the estimated timeline from design to deployment? How do you manage delays and what are the key project milestones?
  1. What performance guarantees do you provide post-installation? What are the specific terms of your service level agreements (SLAs)?
  1. What support services do you offer after installation? Is there ongoing technical support, and how are issues typically handled?
  1. How do you address cybersecurity in your network designs? What security measures and protocols do you implement to protect the network?

Why Every Detail in Network Design Counts

The stakes are high when it comes to in-building network connectivity. The decisions made today will not only affect current operations, but will also pave the way for future technological integrations. 

But it's more than just about staying connected. It's about creating a foundation sturdy enough to support the next generation of digital innovations—from IoT to smart building technologies—that rely heavily on the underlying network. So as you move forward, remember that each question asked, each detail considered, and each decision made about your network design is a step toward future-proofing your property. Invest wisely in your network, and you invest in the future of your building.

Let’s set you up for today and tomorrow. Connect with AirTower today!