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The role of neutral host DAS in commercial real estate

Learn how Simon Property Group and American Tower work together on DAS for in-building wireless

As the fourth largest city in the country with a base population of 2.1 million people, along with attracting significant business and leisure travel, Houston, Texas, has a well-developed heterogeneous network environment.

During the recent HetNet Expo, a panel discussion highlighted the host city of Houston, including how a major real estate firm is working with wireless infrastructure owner/operator American Tower, which has about 1,000 marketable assets in the Houston area, including at the Houston Galleria.

Simon Property Group owns and operates the Houston Galleria, which accounts for about 2.4 million-square-feet of the REIT’s 185 million-square feet of gross leasable area across 210 properties.

Paula Ramey, Simon’s director of field technology operations, says wireless infrastructure plays a big role in supporting the company’s goal of creating destination shopping venues.

“The thing that we’ve been challenged with, obviously, over the years with the increase in technology customers carry around around on a regular basis, is how do we make sure they’re fully connected when they visit our properties?” she said. “The combination of both 4G LTE, cellular and Wi-Fi is a very important amenity to us for our customers. We’re also in a situation where it’s also become a business delivery vehicle for us.”

Specifically, Ramey explained that things like ATMs, stroller vending units and soda machines are connected over cellular because hard wiring would be “cost prohibitive and not very logical.”

Distributed antenna systems or rooftop antennas are deployed in some 100 of Simon Property Group’s 210 properties, she said, adding that many properties have neutral host DAS provided by American Tower. “It’s not something that I feel like the shopping center could be as successful without.”

For DAS deployments, neutral host is American Tower’s approach of choice, Director of Business Development Lisa Gascoigne said. The company has more than 1,000 buildings with indoor DAS deployments in its portfolio.

“Neutral host, generally, is our preferred model,” Gascoigne said during the panel. “We truly believe in the neutral host model. Shared electronics and shared passive infrastructure makes a lot of sense financially.”

She said the average number of carriers on a neutral host DAS is 2.3, adding that aesthetics are extremely important to venue owners. “We just can’t be putting multiple penetrations in ceilings as new carriers come on or as carriers increase the amount of frequencies they want to broadcast in. Neutral host really works well from an aesthetics perspective.”

Take a look at the full panel discussion here, and check out this playlist of videos from the 2016 HetNet Expo.


Sean Kinney, Editor in Chief
Editor-in-Chief Sean focuses on multiple subject areas including 5G, Open RAN, hybrid cloud, edge computing, and Industry 4.0. He also hosts Arden Media's podcast Will 5G Change the World? Prior to his work at RCR, Sean studied journalism and literature at the University of Mississippi then spent six years based in Key West, Florida, working as a reporter for the Miami Herald Media Company. He currently lives in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

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