5G-related headlines were a mainstay in Canadian tech news last year. And the buzz surrounding this new cellular technology isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. However, one thing we’ve noticed while reading everything and anything related to 5G is the lack of actionable advice and practical information. Technical explanations are certainly helpful and necessary. But what should Canadian business owners be doing to prepare for a future with 5G?
This year we’ve gotten a lot of questions from business owners – particularly building owners – about what plans they should make to capitalize on the coming 5G revolution. In the past when asked these kinds of questions about approaching technological advances, one of the first things we mention to these forward-thinking entrepreneurs is that caution is always the best approach where investing in new tech is concerned. This is because when you look back on the headline-making tech innovations of the past 25 years, many of them turned out to be passing trends.
True as that is, 5G is all but guaranteed to change everything. Everything points to a groundbreaking influence on our very way of life. Investing time, effort, and money preparing for it is wise. And based on our experience, you would be hard-pressed to find someone in corporate Canada that disagrees.
However, it’s important to remember that 5G won’t be fully accessible for businesses in Canada right away. If you’re a building owner, this fact needs to influence your investment efforts, monetary or otherwise. Here are some ways that 5G is certain to affect building owners in Canada, as well as practical advice on how to prepare.
How 5G Will Affect Your Tenants?
More bandwidth, low latency, and fast speeds are the calling cards of 5G businesses in Canada. For your tenants, this means that they’re going to have the fastest and most reliable cell service in history. But this isn’t the only feature of your building that will get an upgrade.
The bandwidth capabilities of 4G can’t support anywhere near the number of devices per square mile as 5G can. This fact means big steps forward for smart home technology. Last year, it was estimated that smart home devices were found in almost 70% of American homes (Canada's number is very similar). Almost 20% of those have multiple devices. And those numbers will most certainly go up with each passing year. The ever-increasing popularity of smart home tech will welcome 5G with open arms as it makes possible the support of more and more devices simultaneously.
5G for Canadian businesses will allow thousands of these devices to exist and operate in a single ecosystem. Your building could be transformed into a huge digital habitat with many hundreds of interconnected gadgets. The modern value and comfort your building provides will increase exponentially with more IoT devices in a low-latency environment. And even as the number of devices in your building increases, tenants won’t be worrying about the internet slowing down.
The voice quality of calls made by your tenants in your building will likely stay the same with 5G. Video chats will definitely be more consistent and smoother than they’ve ever been, but traditional calls won’t see much difference.
Will You Need To Install New Equipment In Your Building?
Many Canadian building owners have questions about whether or not widespread 5G service will require new equipment to be installed in their buildings. The answer is: chances are you will.
Even though 5G is piggy-backing off of the existing 4G infrastructure, the signals operate at a much higher frequency, making it more difficult for them to transmit through most building materials. Telecom companies in Canada are working hard to build out the infrastructure, spending many millions – even billions – of dollars worth of new infrastructure, mostly in the form of cell towers and cell tower additions. But equipment needed to bring the outside signal, inside the building will be needed for many large buildings, and almost anyone looking to fully “cut the cord.”
Because of how expensive and time-consuming rolling out 5G is for Canadian networks, the new service is initially only available in major cities and then branching out from there. So if you own buildings in some of the major metropolitan areas of Canada, your tenants may be some of the first to experience the speeds of 5G.
Even then, carriers are being picky about where new towers are installed. So there’s no absolute guarantee—even in a big city—that your location will have 5G cell towers in Canada (more specifically that part of Canada). Another thing to remember is that it operates differently than 4G in some ways. Despite all the advantages and improvements of 5G for companies in Canada, 4G still has a leg up in one category. Reach.
Because 5G signals can’t penetrate many man-made and natural obstructions, it requires more antennas per square mile. To address this issue, telecom companies are installing small cells. These are like smaller cell towers that ensure reliable coverage in a concentrated area. As of now, building owners don’t have complete control over whether or not small cells will be installed near their structures. But it would be wise to ensure (in whatever ways you can) that you have the available space for small cells to be installed.
How Are 5G Frequencies Different?
A momentary detour to explain something important before moving on:
Canadian building owners should know the 3 different 5G frequencies: high-, mid-, and low-band. High-band (aka mmWave, pronounced “millimeter wave”) yields fast speeds but a small coverage area. Low-band uses frequencies below 6GHz which means speeds aren’t as fast as what 5G is truly capable of, but they can cover a larger area. Mid-band operates between mmWave and sub-6GHz.
But here’s the thing. All 3 iterations of 5G are faster than anything 4G LTE has to offer. Even low-band 5G is capable of 250 Mpbs. That’s faster than anything you’ve ever experienced on your smartphone to date. And that’s the low end of 5G.
You should consider which band of 5G you want your building to have. You’ve probably heard of the incredible, futuristic applications that 5G is capable of. Most of those will likely be more applicable for commercial use – or rather, non-residential applications. These large-scale implementations will in most cases require new infrastructure, perhaps even on-site. But mid-and-low-band 5G likely will not. So for building owners, focusing on high-band additional equipment to bring high-band 5G is probably the best choice.
5G-enabled devices are already available. Many of your tenants almost certainly have them. Even today, though still in its early stages, 5G is available from all major Canadian carriers in some areas. 4G LTE won’t be fully replaced by 5G for several years and will remain the backup when 5G isn’t available. This point is worth making because Canadian building owners have an opportunity to create for their tenants (and future tenants) a major selling point. This can be done by balancing current needs with future possibilities as they become a 5G company in Canada.
That doesn’t mean you need to make 5G for Canadian businesses your top priority right away. If you own an apartment structure, don’t pursue 5G at the expense of all the 4G users in your building–especially since many products, like SureCall signal boosters, exist and are already approved by the government to be installed, and these won’t be obsolete for the foreseeable future. If an opportunity presented itself to start replacing cell infrastructure (if it was necessary in your situation), don’t jump the gun. Make sure 4G LTE is covered in your building and then get started on a 5G budget for your future needs.
If Necessary, What 5G Equipment Should I Buy For My Building?
When choosing equipment, you should focus on what will result in the least amount of disruption. That will put you in the market for low- and mid-band hardware rather than high-band. However, high-band mmWave equipment may be the right way to go if your building is in a large major city with 5G access. No matter what, there are things you can do to prepare your building for the additional 5G equipment that may