Luke Lucas is Senior Manager of Engineering Business Development for T-Mobile USA. Luke manages the Build Your Own Coverage (BYOC) program, focusing on enterprise and in-building coverage, furthering the role of wireless in buildings as a 5th utility-like service. In his role, Luke is involved with smart building and smart city technologies, 5G wireless and the relationship between enterprises installing infrastructure and the connection to T-Mobile signal source and backhaul. Luke has been with T-Mobile for more than two decades, previously in several regional and market development manager roles.
- What is 5G, and all these other Gs?
- What is BYOC (Build Your Own Coverage)?
- How does BYOC get brought into properties?
- What are the challenges of these deployments?
- What consideration should buildings be taking now?
- What are 6G & 7G going to be?
- Lightning round questions.
Blake Miller 0:02
Hey everybody, welcome back to the Future of Living podcast. I’m your host Blake Miller. Today we’ve got Luke Lucas on the podcast from T-Mobile. We talked about building your own connection and 5g inside of buildings. Check it out. Luke, welcome to the Future of Living podcast. How are you today?
Luke Lucas 0:22
Great, Blake. Nice to be with you.
Blake Miller 0:24
Yeah, no, it’s always crazy times. We’re actually taping this. Today, right after we we wrapped up the T-Mobile Accelerator and live broadcast the demo day. So figured why not stack up T-Mobile and get a bunch of pink in my life.
Luke Lucas 0:37
Don’t forget that’s magenta.
Blake Miller 0:39
Magenta. My bad. That is, I keep forgetting that I have to get the company line going. Right?
Luke Lucas 0:44
It’s actually a registered color.
Blake Miller 0:46
I love it. I love it. Well, you know, I actually see the T-Mobile Center here in Kansas City just got christened the old Sprint Center. So I see…
Luke Lucas 0:52
Blake Miller 0:53
I see that magenta my window. So well, why don’t you tell everybody kind of about yourself how you got to what you’re doing today at T-Mobile, which is some really cool stuff. And then we’ll talk about 5g and what the future is like.
Luke Lucas 1:04
Great. Thanks for that opportunity. So I’m Luke Lucas. I’m Senior Manager of 5g smart in-building coverage. It is my 25th year at T-Mobile. So yes, when you start at 25, and add 25, you work out…
Blake Miller 1:20
You’re an OG.
Luke Lucas 1:22
I’m, I’m an old guy here. But literally, I think I have seen the opportunity. As we started to build the outdoor network. From a commercial carrier perspective. On cellular across the US, I’ve now worked in three of the four engineering regions and T-Mobile, eight different city marketplaces. And then the last six years, I’ve worked my way to headquarters, to where initially I worked on the Major League Baseball account. That was when T-Mobile signed, that big broad band of marketing, and we had to then enable all the stadiums to make sure that our customers were connected. But it also gave me Blake the transition opportunity to say, after all these years of building indoor coverage, excuse me outdoor coverage, now’s the forefront, and the final frontier with indoor, so outdoor to indoor. And I think all of us as, as you know, folks in the US have enjoyed connecting from the the signal outdoors. But now, it really is a focal point because we actually have to go to the edge. And edge networking is now the key ingredient to indoor space. And that’s bringing the signal indoors on a perfected basis, that that business proposition was a business plan that I presented five and a half years ago. And that was originally called bring your own coverage. Today it’s branded build your own coverage. It’s really patterned after a fifth utility. And if you think of utility, water, sewer, gas, electricity, all those functions are created by the developer by the builder, once they put your project, your residential project, your commercial project or industrial project your retail project together. So no matter where you are in life, you’re attending these properties, and you’re having an expectation of connectivity. So today, the indoor signal is more important than ever, T-Mobile then supplement that and breaks it into two categories. First, we look at the enterprise or the government, who controls that indoor space to procure the equipment and the technology and put that in place. Secondarily, then T-Mobile budget internally to bring that signal source to you. That’s what we’ve licensed to the FCC. And of course, we typically include our fiber connectivity to our switch our switches our brain of the system, that then brings you into the total network. So it’s been really exciting. And over 25 years, like I’ve got to tell you, it’s finally the sweet spot, working so hard outdoors, now exclusively indoors. And then of course, we’ve now evolved from 4g to 5g. And what is 5g? It is the new platform foundation. It’s really it’s a build on the existing platforms that we had when we had one gene. People weren’t really aware of that. 2g still absence and…
Blake Miller 4:23
What are all these G’s, like, break that down? Like I want to really that’s where I really wanted to dig in here is like, what is this? What is 5g? Why do I need it? And you know, explain it to me kind of like I’m a five year old type of thing, right? Because I’m rocking around with my 4g my my phone here and I’m on the T-Mobile network. And it seems pretty fast like seems pretty awesome. But like what, what’s, what’s going on here?
Luke Lucas 4:46
So 5g is is really an evolution. Each G is a upgrade, if we could call it. So if we were talking to a classroom of students, you know through ease of our lives, we do a number of upgrades, we upgrade our car, we upgrade our housing, we upgrade our clothing, we upgrade, you know, personal effects. And so really in technology we’re upgrading. And we’re enabling from that upgrade. And so when you modernize and upgrade, it then allows you to do additional functions that you didn’t have before. It gives you creativity and innovation that you didn’t have access to before. And that’s really, I think, the bottom line, Blake is that there’s promise, there’s creativity tied to 5g. And I think last but not least, everybody has come accustomed to speed, and maybe speed to a certain degree. People don’t really need excessive speed, but I do think, at a industrial level, and from a productive level, in commerce and business, they will require speed to support the customer and the customer satisfaction. Yeah, certainly industries and businesses. And that’s what 5g is enabling. So in benefits, everybody it touches everybody, if you even have just a simple phone, that’s a 5g capable funnel, and you will have benefit. If that’s an enterprise level, you’re going to have much larger benefit. And certainly, if you’re an industry, or a business sector, a marketplace within the US. And of course, globally, you’re going to then see even more promise as it covers the land.
Blake Miller 6:37
Well, that’s, yeah, that’s awesome. That that really helps me kind of understand. I mean, it makes sense. We get a new iPhone, we have new phones every year, you know, I think I’m just on an installment plan at this point. I just like I’ve never owned a thing, right. It’s just my subscription service for my phone. Now everything is on a service, right? Talked on the on the podcast a lot about living-as-a-service, how just basically think everything is basically basically a SaaS. But talk to me about what like some people are doing with the early 5g networks and it coming online? Like what are what are some of the most innovative things that you’ve seen there? And some of the companies that you’ve been working with? What are they doing? What are they using for it?
Luke Lucas 7:19
Why I think the initial thought with 5g was that they would use it for safety, security and compliance. And I think that’s where we’re starting to see the entry into 5g. So the safety is obviously like cameras and monitoring and, and then it may expand into additional sensors that might be able to communicate with you in ways that we haven’t had access to before. Do you have a water break? Do you have a power failure? Do you have other things, you have efficiencies to say, hey, the cooling is running in my building? And it’s the weekend and there’s nobody there? So is excessive air conditioning necessary? Could you enable that just simply shut it off. So we’ve had some of the innovations over the years, you might remember it was called M to M or machine to machine? Now that has updated itself. And it’s called the Internet of Things or IoT. So when we combine the evolutions, we now see all these things coming into the space as services as a next is electable options that we can then put to work on to be more productive, to have cost efficiencies and savings, as I’ve mentioned. And again, what does the future hold that today we can’t answer? But you and I will say in two years, five years, 10 years from now, how did we ever do without that? Right? Because somebody invented and 5g supported that invention,
Blake Miller 8:56
You know, give give somebody a bigger pipe, they’ll just fill it. Right.
Luke Lucas 8:59
Right. Right. Expanding the canvas is exactly what’s happening. You know, we’re doing that here in Washington state, we created an Innovation Zone with the University of Washington with Microsoft, with a number of other companies to simply say, Here’s 5g on a blank canvas, what would you paint the canvas with?
Blake Miller 9:20
Yeah, I mean, that was the same mentality when we were doing the Smart City Technology Partnership here in Kansas City, and originally was Sprint. That was one of the things with the whole of rolling this out is like put the infrastructure out, open it up so people can then innovate on top of it. That’s, you know, take advantage of it. So it sucks. These stadiums and stuff aren’t happening right now and everything but I really want to talk to you about this BYOC because I know you guys have in your kind of job right now. You guys have done some really cool projects. Talk to me. What is BYOC? What is it? Why is it important? And if 5g is everywhere, why do I need?
Luke Lucas 10:02
So, build your own coverage was really to close the digital divide on making sure the outdoor signal gets in and gets in officially. So BYOC is just an enabler, as we’ve discussed, to make sure that there is a way for you to do that. All the carriers subscribe to getting signal indoors. But we really thought that we would take it a step further by educating the marketplace, and then also creating a multitude of programs. I’m a guy that grew up in San Diego, and I love ice cream. And I used to love to go to Baskin Robbins, because 31 flavors of ice cream, gave me an opportunity to kind of sample one. And if I didn’t like it, I would go to another and then when I found my favorite, I’d probably always include my favorite. If we break that down to a wireless technology side, indoors now is really become centric under COVID. And under civil rights. So we we’ve got to make sure that the technology is there. Each and every building owner operator tenant may look at technology and that incorporation a little differently. So like Baskin Robbins, we’ve tried to be creative. We’ve got our original BYOC program. Now Blake, it’s you put in the technology, we bring the signal source, you’re connected, you’re done. Secondarily, we had different locations that said, “Hey, I’m a public or quasi public location. And if I can’t afford in a budget, this budget cycle, this business here, of the technology with T-Mobile helped me with that.” And we call that BYOC Hybrid. And last but not least, we found ourselves competing with Verizon and AT&T, where they were simply choosing one option. we now call that option, BYOC Express. And the long and short of it is that previously, other clients or tenants of BYOC said, “Hey, I went to the other carriers. I wrote one check or gave them a purchase order, I gave them my credit card, and I bought the RF, I provided the backhaul myself, I’m putting in all the technology I just wanted and I want it quickly.” And we found in our BYOC program, we take basically about six months to evaluate the need, understand how it fits in the network, work with the enterprise client and their strategic partner, and then internally fund our RF, we also do a similar pattern with BYOC Hybrid on the public location. But for the BYOC Express program, you can show up today and six or eight weeks from now, you can be enabled with 5g, and you’ve done it all yourself in kind of a self control mode. Almost as if you and I were at the grocery store, you know, could we check out with the checker, or can we just go through the self-serve line. And so BYOC Express is really that third program. Last but not least, we’re going to have a fourth program probably in the first part of next year in 2021. And that would be the private network, also known as CBRS, or Citizen Band Radio Service, part of the spectrum that the FCC allocated is three dot five, that 3.5 spectrum is a preferred spectrum that is licensed only for indoors from your property bordered line. So it can be your business footprint, it can be geographically a larger footprint. And it functions in a couple of capacities where you can be licensed, or you can be unlicensed, like a Wi Fi. And we do think that that will be a greater opportunity. People will still apply the T-Mobile for BYOC, BYOC Hybrid, and most likely be expanding in the BYOC Express. But we do think that we’re just on the verge of probably a tidal wave hitting the beach of businesses saying I can really be in control of my technology and my future. And I can enable anything and everything under my own control with a CBR s or a private network offering.
Blake Miller 14:11
So that…help me if I’m a business owner or building owner probably better suited you know, we work with a Homebase, we work with apartment owners, you know, condo owners all types of stuff. Like, you know, my first reaction might be like, “Well, why do I need to do this? Aren’t you guys? Aren’t you guys already? I mean, you just launched 5g in Kansas City. Is it all here? Why do I need this? What’s my value?” Like, how do I plug this into my spreadsheet to see if this can be underwritten?
Luke Lucas 14:40
Well, it will, I think, I think it’s a custom prescription, Blake. I think each and every property owner and or a tenant needs to understand their needs and their expectations with technology. So to you and I we, you and I both see a lot of customers. A lot of partners And when you see them, we’re helping them assess their needs on an individual customer basis. Certainly certain developers, certain owners may say, I have a portfolio of properties. And I want to apply technology uniformly across all those properties. But I would tell you this and you know, this already, one developer sitting next to another developer, I will be in the room and I will be amazed at the disagreements that they’ll have on construction materials, landscaping, paint,…
Blake Miller 15:32
I’m honestly shocked that buildings get built. I’m fundamentally, utterly shocked. Once I’ve seen behind the scenes here, I’m shocked that they get built.
Luke Lucas 15:41
It is amazing. And, and that’s where I think, uniformity and kind of a opportunity kind of clash, for us to provide a handful of programs, so that someone can then say, for my situation for my real estate, this program fits. And that may have a financial component to it. It may not. Um, but we need to have a variety. Because in life, especially as Americans, we we love variety. We love choice. We’d love opportunity. So we’re trying to fulfill that in the BYOD program.
Blake Miller 16:18
That’s really cool. So talk to me about like some of these, like real applications, right? You mentioned some stadiums that you’ve worked on everything, what does those look like? And what are the challenges that go into getting these things in these networks?
Luke Lucas 16:33
Well, I think it’s foundational. First and foremost, we try to coach in at a provisional level. Before we actually land into a stadium for a deployment or into a commercial office building or a multi family building, we try to be educational in terms of get ready for technology. And we do that in a simple format. First and foremost, at our website, T-Mobile BYOC .com. We have a couple of checklists, as you know, we have the smart building checklist, we have the Smart City checklist. If we focused on the smart building checklist, regardless of stadium or commercial building or multifamily building, you want to provision that building to be ready for what we call any G. So we’re, we’re in 4g Today, we’re moving into 5g, and we have 5g available to our customers today. But when you look at your real estate, add more power, add more conduit, add more fiber, and add more Ethernet. If you provision your properties with with those four basic ingredients, and you’ve increased the amount that your architect or builder has recommended or has has written into your construction documents, you will be ready for the future because all of those paths, the power path, the wire path, the conduit path with the wires, all then brings all the technology together. And you’re simply doing an upgrade over the years, very similarly to what you do today with your Wi Fi router. If you have the connection of the wire and the power, you can plug it in the box. And within a two to three year cycles, you and I both know that Wi Fi router gets thrown out, and you’ve bought a new one to upgrade, and you plug in the power and the cat five, cat six or the fiber and boom, you’re back in business. That is the basis of our coaching and education to get people to provision that the rest will follow when they’re ready. And hopefully they’ll be ready, you know, sooner than later.
Blake Miller 18:40
Yeah, I mean, that’s it. That’s definitely good advice. We see this a lot too. And we get involved early on in that developers process where we’re trying to do everything from the access control, the Wi-Fi in the building and all these different things. And we’re just like, you know, you got to prep for this, like you there’s gonna be certain things that the future isn’t just going to have, right? Like, why are you putting in a telephone wire? You know, we still see that today on buildings that are going to go live in 2022. And they’re like, “Well, you know, just in case” I’m like, “Well, yeah, you know, I don’t know, I think things have moved beyond that. We know that we can move forward.” But you know, it’s just one example. You know, we’re running out of time, but I want to know, like, you know, you really broke it down well of 5g’s really another just evolution of like the next phase it is what is six g? What is seven g? What does that start to look like? Did you guys even start thinking about that yet?
Luke Lucas 19:31
Well, we think about it from dimensioning our network. It’s very much similar to that conversation that you and I just had about developers and property managers provisioning.
Blake Miller 19:41
Yeah, like basically how do you guys provision the provisioning?
Luke Lucas 19:44
Right? So so we’re doing all of those provisioning steps. We don’t know until the standards are written as you will know, for what will be the the basic framework for 16 and we will get there until about The seventh eighth or ninth year as we evolve into 5g. Interesting, but you and I like smart drivers, we need to meet immediately know of our surroundings, we need to immediately look down the road. But we probably even need to look at our app to see are there accidents? Are there issues that can be addressed? 20 miles down the road? Yeah. And that’s the preparation for 6g. Blake is we’re trying to envision what and where it’s going, what roadblocks, we will anticipate what roadblocks we can get cleared. And where we could be in the basic sweet spot so that as all of this comes together, and as the standards are written, and as all the carriers then start to look at, okay, it’s the standard is written, how do I adopt it? How do I put in place? How does that translate out to marketing? How does that eventually come out to the customer experience? All those things, we’re taking baby steps, and we will and will continue to do so. But we’re right in the throes of the sweet spot that we believe. We’re now deploying 5g and actively 5g. People even, you know, in recent weeks have said, “Well, look, I’m still waiting for 5g to be launched.” And I’ll say, “5g? I have it on my Samsung and Apple in September.”
Blake Miller 21:21
Unlike AT&T doing like 5g E or whatever it is like that they’re they’re claiming. Oh, it’s legit. I’m on it too I got. That’s why I upgraded to the S20 Ultra is like Google has it. It’s awesome. Yeah. So I end up every episode with some of my favorite lightning round questions. And one of my favorites ask everybody I always kick off with is, what particular business or service is going to be completely obsolete in the next 10 years? Like in other words, who is the next blockbuster?
Luke Lucas 21:50
Interesting. Boy? I don’t know. Um, you know, that’s a really good question. And with COVID, I think it weighs in completely sure, though, that to a 90 degree angle that it hits broadside. You know, people that would have probably thought in January, February and March, that they would have a good run rate are probably now, you know, questioning whether they’re going to be a business. First and foremost, I think retail is going to suffer the most. And we’re gonna see the absence of storefront retail, on diminished retail, because people, people are more centric, online and delivery. Now. Whether Amazon’s created that indirectly or directly, we’ve all become a product and a source of that. Sure. So I that’s what I would say. And I think the commercial real estate market is going to have a different landscape. The residential market is going to prosper, people are going to want more amenities. I think the Wall Street Journal article this week shows that there’s a number of amenities that, you know, are are yet to be kind of explored yet it will be incorporated into projects. But back to your question. Retail, I think we’re gonna see an absence of commercial retail.
Blake Miller 23:13
Yeah, and it’s, it’s gonna be it’s gonna be a sad thing. Hopefully, hopefully, something will come get into place, maybe a bunch of Shopify stores end up kind of coming coming back and do the smaller rethought retail, you know.
Luke Lucas 23:25
I have a feeling it will it will read dimension it to your point? Yeah, um, I don’t think we’ll see the hundred percent absence of it, there will be some necessity for it. It will be just reprovision.
Blake Miller 23:37
It really surprised me that some of these bigger ones and it’s probably that, you know, they go bankrupt because of debt and other bad decisions and those things, but it definitely surprises me that like the Macy’s, maybe they didn’t go bankrupt. But one of those that would bankrupt whoever did. You know, it surprised me. They didn’t like repurpose themselves faster to be like mini warehouse logistics hubs and some of these things, these bigger boxes they had, it’s just like, you know, that that’s blockbuster. There you go.
Luke Lucas 24:02
Yeah. So and that that goes back to watching the roadmap. Yep. You know, how do you keep your eyes on 20 miles down the road, not just the mile. And that’s where I think those businesses have lost sight.
Blake Miller 24:14
Totally. So what you know, COVID everybody’s been locked up everything. Have you acquired any device, or anything recently, this kind of made your major quarantine better?
Luke Lucas 24:27
Well, I definitely upgraded my phones to the 5g. And I’m waiting for my Apple device. So I’ve got two Samsung devices that I’ve moved, like you have to the 5g to make sure that that’s incorporated. I’ve upgraded my service. I actually live in downtown Seattle, so I was able to actually get up to one gig speed. So I’ve done that. Previously, I did have need for one gig speed when I would go physically to work to Bellevue 20 miles away from downtown Seattle every day. But staying at home. And then I think, other than that, just kind of making sure that, you know, I’m getting out and around and not spending so much time. It’s easy, maybe too easy to have an eight growing into a 10 hour business day, working from home now. So I think you were asking for a specific example. But I think it’s just kind of a pattern now, and making sure that there’s proper allocation so that your sanity remains your sanity?
Blake Miller 25:35
Yeah, totally. I totally get it. No, I and that’s a great answer. So, you know, we’re talking about like, obviously, 5g is a platform that is going to change everything. What’s one of the other platforms that’s going to really reign supreme in the future? You know, voices is something that’s happening right now, what’s that? What’s next, you know, the self driving cars, what’s going on?
Luke Lucas 25:58
Well, I think it really just kind of lends itself to the marketplace and the exploration of problems and solutions. So you and I, maybe there’s autonomous vehicles, but at times vehicles really requires a, you know, very low latency and a really strong connection. When you and I are partnering with cities and counties and communities, they’re finding that their coverage is not that great. They’ve known about dead zones and holes in coverage. And that, then is a pitfall for those types of things. But I do think there’s going to be, you know, immediately some medical application, since we’re in COVID. And I think we’re gonna see some very innovative, creative ways that we’re going to one be probably changing our lifestyle, things that we’ve always done a certain way, will be changing, I think technology will be enabling that. And that’s probably maybe my five to 10 mile, you know, roadmap. But like you, it’s, it’s so creative and exciting to see what potentially could happen beyond that. We’ll get there in time.
Blake Miller 27:10
Definitely. So we’ve talked a lot about how technology, specifically 5g, but this all this different type of technology, it’s enabled by it is going to change everything in the future, what’s something that technology is not going to change?
Luke Lucas 27:24
Whoo, boy, that’s a tough one. Um, you know, technology’s touched so many aspects of our lives today. And even in places where we don’t know it’s touched it, it has some kind of presence, um, I don’t know, I think still recreation and, and vacations and those types of things, you’ll still have, you know, kind of innocence without a heavy application of technology. Um, I think it’ll be in the periphery of those types of applications, but not the predominant, you know, primary, you know, presence that we’ve seen in business, if you go to the office, technology’s obviously there, if you’re at home technologies, obviously, there, if you’re outdoors, connectivity is probably at a basic level for 911, and public safety, and general accessibility there. Um, so you and I have to look for places to escape. Mm hmm. And that’s why I think that, you know, vacationing, and then getting away from it. Whether it’s present or not, is probably the only place that technology is not touching. And we’re probably doing that on a self performance basis by saying, I don’t need technology, or I don’t want technology. And I’m kind of focusing on something different, and away from technology. So that’s the only thing that really comes to mind to meet Blake. Any thoughts that you had? What are other people? What are they answer?
Blake Miller 29:00
Well, you can go listen. Shameless plug.
Luke Lucas 29:02
I’ll do that.
Blake Miller 29:04
No shameless plug for everybody to go listen to more. But you know, it’s a common theme is, you know, I think the one thing that technology is not going to change is that people want to be connected, they want to escape, they want experiences together. And so that’s just kind of that theme of you know, travel and vacationing and all that those are experiences. And that’s what people want. That’s something that technology just can’t replace. You know, we’re sitting here we’re doing these all these Zoom calls, everybody Zooms from day to day, or Google or whatever you’re on. And, you know, you’re exhausted at the end of the day. And the one thing I’m still longing for is just hanging out with my buddies hanging out with our friends and those things. You know, in the end, you just can’t do it in these times. And I think all the things that has that this crisis and everything is accelerated in everything. It’s also just left everything still the same.
Luke Lucas 29:59
The escape without technology. There you go.
Blake Miller 30:05
Yeah, no, I love this conversation. I really enjoyed it. Tell everybody how they can find you online. We’ll also make sure it’s on the show notes.
Luke Lucas 30:13
So, two ways. First, my first name is Luke like Skywalker. And my last name is Lucas like George Lucas. Pretty easy to remember pretty easy to spell. They can typically find me on LinkedIn, and a minimum, secondarily, they can just go to the beam T-Mobile BYOC .com site, and there’s a contact portion there. And probably third, let’s throw that in. They can contact you and you can contact me.
Blake Miller 30:41
Bingo, exactly. I like it. Well, Luke, I really enjoyed this conversation, like I said, and I appreciate it. Thanks, Blake.