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Blog Post

Are modern buildings really all that “smart”?

modern buildings block mobile signal
We ask why property developers aren’t doing more to get around the great mobile connectivity problem that businesses in the UK are facing today.

This is 2020. Phones are smart. Roads are smart. Now buildings are expected to be smart too.

These days you can’t just put up a building and say it’s enough for it to provide a space for people to go about their daily business.

Oh no, buildings have to do a lot more than that now.

Requirements and regulations stipulate that modern buildings need to be green. They should have low carbon emissions, be able to communicate issues and, really, produce power rather than use it.

To this end, many builders are now integrating things like solar panels as a standard and there are several initiatives in place that aim to reduce the carbon footprint of new buildings.

The World Green Building Council expects developers and architects to consider “the quality of life of occupants in design, construction and operation” too. In other words, buildings must be made in a way that doesn’t cause problems for the people who go into them.

But one big problem that many have had with “modern” buildings is poor mobile connectivity.

Twenty years ago, people wouldn’t have batted an eyelid over bad mobile signal. But in 2020, it causes real problems.

According to the British Chamber of Commerce, as many as 70% of commercial buildings contain not spots that leave people unable to complete basic tasks, like getting online or even simply speaking to someone.

Smartphones form the basis for so many technologies and services – like smart heating systems, for example. So why, when regulations say that buildings need to facilitate our basic needs, are we suffering from a shortage of the fourth utility – communication – so often?

Couple that with the fact that Government has set a target of 95% mobile coverage throughout the UK – wherever you are – by 2022, and the problem becomes a little more irksome.

In fairness, older buildings are rife with materials that block mobile signals, like concrete and brick. And when you consider that mobile coverage wasn’t a big deal (or even “a thing” at all) when those buildings were designed, it’s more than forgivable.

But why isn’t more being done to enable mobile signals to penetrate new buildings now?

Doing so would not only meet consumers’ ever-increasing demand for connectivity, but it’d create great opportunities for property developers too. They’d minimise occupancy voids and be able to increase their developments’ worth with value-added services driven by mobile signal. Smart heating being just one example.

Well, it’s a bit more complicated than just shrugging your shoulders and saying “who knows?”, thanks to the stricter regulations that aim to make buildings greener.

See, the materials commonly used to create greener buildings (with decent Energy Performance Certificates and high soundproofing standards in tow) are the very things that impact indoor mobile connectivity.

Treated glass, galvanised steel and reinforced concrete are among the materials used in buildings with a lower carbon footprint, but they also block mobile signal.

But all of these carbon lowering building materials get in the way of radio frequency waves too.

And the more the technology behind mobile signal moves on, the greater the problems the buildings cause. 4G and 5G rely on higher frequency signals, which have worse propagation rates and so are more easily affected by modern building materials.

The result tends to be that the deeper inside the building you go, the worse coverage becomes. And that tends to grind people’s gears.

So how do you rectify the problem?

The answer used to be that you had to get the infrastructure right from the very start of the build, but that was extremely hard to do. Regulations, costs and lengthy timescales meant that the constraints on developers really were just a bit too much.

But in 2018, Ofcom made a very welcome change. They brought licence exemption regulations into force which meant that it became a lot easier to provide consistent mobile coverage.

The result is that Signal Solutions Ltd can offer signal boosting technologies and mobile repeaters that eradicate the entire problem from any and every building.

And that means that property developers can get round the poor-signal-problem and unlock more value in their houses.

Using Nextivity Cel-Fi technology, our Amplifi-Qx solutions tick all Ofcom’s specification boxes and are 100% legal and reliable on all mobile 3G, 4G and soon-to-be 5G networks.

In every building where Signal Solutions Ltd sets to work, consumers aren’t left adrift from the rest of the world. Businesses stay online, able to access every service they need to function.

Building automation services remain accurate. And Government can probably expect to stay on track for that 95% after all.

If your building suffers from poor mobile signal and you’d like to find a cost-effective, stress-free solution, let’s talk. 

Ring us on 020 3823 7365 to speak to a member of our Signal Team.

Mark Rose
Mark Rose
As co-founder of Signal Solutions, Mark's signal boosting knowledge is second to none. Mark has worked on a large number of signal projects over the years, from straightforward single-booster projects, to large scale installations across multiple buildings.