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The Big 3G switch off - the impact on real estate

The Big 3G switch off - the impact on real estate

You may or may not be aware that the UK Mobile Network Operators (MNO’s) – Vodafone, EE and O2 are going through a program to decommission and switch off 3G. This is the mobile broadband and voice service that came before 4G.

For the general public, there will be little change to notice, unless you happen to be in an areas that doesn’t support a 4G service
There are serious implications and considerations for the real estate sector (as well as commercial enterprises) that have an existing 3G mobile coverage system in the building.

How will this affect landlords and commercial enterprises?

In simple terms, if you have a 3G femtocell or a 3G Distributed Antenna System (DAS) installed in your premise, you will no longer be able to make or receive phone calls or initiate data sessions using your current system as soon as the decommissioning of 3G is completed.

This will, of course, affect business operations and the tenant / guest experience within your building.

What to do if this affects you?

There are 2 scenarios, each with their own approach dependent on which technology you have installed.

  • 3G Femtocells: These units / access points will no longer be supported by the MNO’s and vendors who manufacture them. They are locked to 3G and there is no upgrade path. Each unit will need to be replaced with a 4G compatible product. It’s likely the existing cat5/6 and fibre cable infrastructure can be re-used as well as the internet circuit providing the service . Essentially though, this will be a near complete replacement of the original investment.
  • 3G Distributed Antenna System: Dependent on the type of DAS that has been installed i.e. passive or active as well as the DAS vendor, it’s likely most of the infrastructure can be re-used. The only upgrade required will be the MNO’s Base Transceiver Station (BTS) and some ‘head end equipment’ which is typically situated in the buildings Main Equipment Room (MER). There may be some additional ‘head end’ equipment that needs replacing but the cost will be minimal when compared to replacing the entire system with something that is 4G compatible.

How do you know if this affects you?

  1. As a loose rule, if you have an in-building mobile coverage system in your building and it was purchase / installed over 5 years ago or more, the 3G switch off may well affect your service.
  2. If you’ve purchased a mobile coverage system which requires an access point at each location for each MNO i.e. femtocells, the 3G switch off will most definitely affect your service.
  3. If you’re completely unsure of when your system was installed or by whom, engage with a reputable cellular systems integrator who will be able to undertake a site survey and identify if your building is at risk.

The good news!

The current standards for 4G systems mean you won’t have to upgrade or do any work to the new infrastructure for a minimum of 10 years +. Also, as the newest services are following the JOTS-NHIB cloud architecture and the MNO’s current road map, 5G upgrades will not require a complete system replacement. Most of the newest hardware is software defined, making remote changes easy and low cost.


JOTS-NHIB References: