In today’s challenging commercial real estate market, building owners are hyperfocused on differentiating their properties to fill vacancies and lease up new developments.
One technology firm is helping to turn tenants into dedicated fans of their developers and landlords.
Mobilitie, soon to be known as Boldyn Networks, designs, builds and operates telecommunications infrastructure across a wide array of building types, from stadiums and transit systems to CRE and hospitality.
Creating fans should be the goal for owners and developers when they seek to attract and retain tenants, according to Mobilitie Chief Commercial Officer Jason Caliento.
“We have an extensive sports and entertainment portfolio where we deliver state-of-the-art wireless networks with seamless coverage and capacity for our stadium and venue partners,” Caliento said. “Fans highly value that connectivity, and the stadium owners are laser-focused on creating an outstanding fan experience and improving back-of-house communications and operations.”
Caliento said fans, advertisers and corporate partners at marquee venues like Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles or Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, see the value in those connected experiences, and CRE tenants are no different.
“In CRE, we see it the same way, and we take that fan experience from the stadium and apply it to the tenant experience in a commercial office building,” he said. “Most people don’t think of their CRE building as supporting a fan base, but that’s how we’re being successful in this challenging market.”
Caliento said the most successful developers and owners of commercial buildings regard wireless as a competitive differentiator. Today, people take connectivity for granted.
Office environments are now competing to create a similarly connected experience that their tenants enjoy while watching their favorite team or working from home, and slow speeds at the office will give them one more reason to stay on their couches.
Other experts agree, including Dave Miller, director of business development at WiredScore, a global connectivity benchmarking company.
“With hybrid work now the norm across industries, there has never been a more important time for CRE owners to adopt smart building technology,” Miller said. “Despite rapidly evolving tenant expectations, our research shows that in-building connectivity will remain a top priority. To stay agile and competitive, properties must offer an intelligent, seamless and efficient connectivity experience.”
Caliento added that building owners are challenged on multiple fronts.
“The CRE market today is as tough as it’s ever been with work-from-home, a tight capital market, lots of competition and, in many cases, aging buildings,” Caliento said. “So the biggest question for a developer is ‘How do I differentiate? How do I add value to my tenants’ businesses as well as make sure the building runs as efficiently as possible?’”
Mobilitie’s “network-as-a-service” model brings building owners greater flexibility, he said. Instead of relying on the major wireless carriers to install the necessary hardware, Mobilitie takes care of it for the building owner through a managed service program, aligning the expense with lease terms through either a common area maintenance charge or technology fee.
“We invest all of the capital to build out these systems, and handle the carrier coordination, ensuring that it’s running 24/7,” Caliento said. “Our network-as-a-service offering includes a simple, straightforward recurring fee that is structured by square footage. In certain cases, we can adjust for tenant vacancies, or, if there are specific tenants that need a more robust layer of coverage or capacity, we can build that into the model.”
This flexible and turnkey approach has served Mobilitie clients well, including one New York City landlord that landed a high-profile technology company as a major tenant. However, while it was a win for the building owner, it also presented the challenge of delivering on the expectations of a global tech icon at its New York headquarters.
“For starters, we built a cellular distributed antenna system, or DAS, throughout the property to provide seamless multicarrier connectivity,” Caliento said. “And then we installed a state-of-the-art WiFi 6 network, well before it was widely adopted, to ensure that the building was future-proofed for the next generation of this important and complementary technology. The transactional experience was simple, and before the building opened, all three major wireless carriers were installed and on-air.”
Caliento added that the tenant is now a “huge fan” of the developer.
Not every tenant is a household name tech company, but almost all employees returning to the office in the wake of the pandemic now expect a higher level of wireless service.
“Businesses that want their employees to return to the office may be better served to provide them with the connectivity and the amenities they need, rather than issue mandates,” Caliento said. “Your technology stack and your amenities need to be highly competitive with the other options that are out there or it’s going to be tough to attract and retain a workforce.”
If a building owner truly wants to build a fan base among its tenants, it should probably start with Gen Z and younger millennial workers, he added. These tech-savvy workers will be around for decades, after all, and will someday be making leasing decisions.
“Think about your employees who are in their 20s and coming into an office environment for the first time, and the WiFi is wonky,” Caliento said. “That’s not how they’ve grown up. That’s not their expectation of a connected experience. In order to make these offices really fill up again, buildings need to make them into fans.”
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