Why Plugged-In Properties Need Backup Plans

Connectivity is now as important to occupants as location. A veteran telecommunication executive contends that redundant technology adds to asset values and offers peace of mind.

Bianco_Robert-photoFor generations, the formula for determining a property’s value was simple: Location was king, square footage was queen, and amenities were their court. But I would argue that today, real estate’s royalty has a powerful new member: meeting the customer’s technology needs.

This is true not only for tech companies, but for companies across every vertical industry. Engineering, professional services, healthcare, marketing and manufacturing are dependent on network connectivity in a way that can make or break their businesses.

The near-universal dependence on web-based applications and cloud-based infrastructure means that every facet of a business requires highly reliable connectivity—customer support services, sales and marketing, production lines, engineering teams, collaboration with partners, delivery of services to customers and phone systems. And all of it comes to a painful and costly halt if that connectivity is lost, even briefly.

Upending the Status Quo

This dependence on connectivity has upended the traditional value structure for commercial real estate. Marble bathrooms and a health club on the first floor don’t mean a thing when a potential tenant is concerned that subpar telecommunications infrastructure might disrupt their business.

As a result, one of the biggest factors in how marketable an office building is—and therefore how much property owners can charge tenants—is how well it is equipped to support and protect tenants’ ability to stay connected 24/7.

You don’t have to look far to see that transformation in action. When commercial real estate brokers and property execs meet with prospective tenants and give them tours, they are bombarded with telecom-related questions, and the answers often serve as the dealmaker or deal-breaker at the end of the process. Conversations now include issues like fiber infrastructure, network diversity and a long list of other technical terms that are now a fixture of the commercial real estate world.

So if the mantra for commercial real estate no longer revolves solely around location, what is the new magic word? Redundancy, the kind that ensures tenants don’t worry about operational interruptions from network outages because fully redundant connectivity is built into a property’s technology infrastructure.

Defending Against Cuts

A word of caution, though. Prospective tenants are highly sophisticated on this issue, and redundancy without diversity is pointless. A second fiber line coming in under the street right next to the primary one won’t give any tenants peace of mind, especially when the most frequent cause of connectivity interruptions isn’t a large-scale outage.

The most typical causes are the thousands of fiber cuts that happen daily when construction crews dig up streets and tear through infrastructure buried under the surface. These don’t create headlines like city-wide outages, but they cause chaos for companies who often count the downtime in days before the fiber cuts are fixed.

True redundancy—the kind that prospective tenants ask about and are willing to pay a premium for—consists of two complementary sources of broadband connectivity that do not occupy the same physical inlet to the building, are not in danger of being knocked out by the same incident and utilize completely different networks outside the building.

A resource I recommend to gauge a building’s connectivity is WiredScore, an independent organization that has established a widely-respected methodology for analyzing and scoring a building’s connectivity. It puts a spotlight on fixed wireless technology as one of the best solutions for delivering redundancy in urban markets.

WiredScore allocates a full nine points of its 100-point scoring system to this technology, which provides a second source of connectivity to buildings via a dedicated wireless beam to a rooftop antenna that is completely independent of the underground fiber network. In fact, the CEO of WiredScore recently discussed many of these issues in a recent interview with CPE. 

Redundancy technologies like fixed wireless can immediately add the connectivity that prospective tenants are looking for, allowing your property to make the shortlist of candidates. That allows you to get past that barrage of connectivity-related questions and maybe even squeeze in a word or two about the fantastic location of the property and breathtaking views from the conference rooms. Those still play a role, but you need to make the connectivity cut first.

Robert Bianco is regional director in the metropolitan New York City area for Windstream, a telecommunications solutions firm. A 20-year veteran of the telecom industry, he advises companies on building state-of-the-art connectivity. Bianco’s expertise includes broadband in urban markets, business continuity and networking strategies. He can be reached at robert.bianco@windstream.com.