The Answer Is Here! Solving Your Property’s Cellular Coverage Issues

April 12, 2013

Ericsson reported in 2012 that from the third quarter of 2009 to the fourth quarter of 2011, mobile data transmission increased by 600 percent. Projections by Cisco seem to indicate that the trend will continue, especially as more video is delivered over the internet.

Indoor cellular coverage is becoming increasingly more important- literally by the day. The Pew Research Center reports that smartphone ownership has increased dramatically over the course of 2011-2012, from 35% to 46% of US adults, totaling a 31% increase in less than one year. Add to this the research conducted by Ericsson reported in 2012, showing a 600% increase in mobile data transmissions between the third quarter of 2009 and fourth quarter of 2011 alone, and it becomes undeniably evident that we are knee deep in the wireless revolution. In fact, 80% of multifamily residents now use their mobile phones as their primary phone, as the land line slowly recedes into the night of technologies past. The disappearance of the corded phone is being solidified by new business models introduced by money hungry cell phone companies; these giants are privy to the fact that data usage far outweighs voice communications, and have incented consumers to do away with land lines, by offering unlimited talk time, while adding (not-so-unlimited) data usage fees.


The Pew Research Center reports that smartphone ownership increased from 35 percent of U.S. adults in 2011 to more than 46 percent of U.S. adults in 2012, a 31 percent increase in less than one year.

All of these changes, quite rapid changes mind you, are creating unintended consequences for many multifamily building owners and residents alike. As the building industry shifts focus towards energy conservation and more sustainable building practices it has become evident that many of the new building materials are particular resistant to cellular service penetration. As you can imagine, this is posing a huge problem for building owners and residents, especially as people become increasingly reliant on wireless technologies. If residents don’t have cellular service inside their homes, how will they make calls to friends and family? More importantly, how will they call 911?? These questions are not to be ignored.

Over 20 times a week someone from the multifamily industry is contacting Spot On Networks for suggestions on how to deal with this difficult, time-consuming, and potentially very costly issue. At Spot On Networks we have dedicated an enormous amount of time to helping building owners combat their cellular dilemmas, and are happy to say, we have just the solution for you.

The right answer can vary from property to property, dependent on the exact circumstances, budget, and level of convenience necessary for residents. The first solution is the DAS System. DAS stands for Distributed Antenna System, and can be quite costly to implement, coupled with extensive installation. Spot On has configured a solution to not only eliminate poor cellular coverage, but to offset the cost of installing an extravagant DAS System: CellBOOST. CellBOOST typically costs about 1/5 of a DAS System, AND provides property wide WiFi.  CellBOOST boosts cellular signal within a building by strategically placing a number of bidirectional amplifiers within the building, and a donor antennae on the roof which receives the cellular service from outdoors. CellBOOST is non-carrier specific, and is Passpoint 2.0 ready for the up and coming technologies.

The second possible solution would be to use existing WiFi applications. If WiFi is available at a property, residents can use mobile VoIP applications, such as Skype as an alternative phone service to make all of their calls, including calls to emergency services- however the location of said caller is not as visible as otherwise. For texting, there is an app called WhatsApp, which enables texts to be sent via Wi-Fi.

Lastly, the lonely Femtocell. The Femtocell is a small, low-power cellular base station designed for in home use. Although each carrier dubs the device something different, all versions are similar operationally: Plug in an internet cable, and use cell service from a single carrier (hence the “lonely”) in an individual apartment (for a fee, of course).

All of these solutions have their own pros and cons, however, when we take a look at the future, it becomes clear that the more effective solution for the long term would be along the lines of CellBOOST. Within a few months, the WiFi Alliance and the Wireless Broadband Alliance will release a compatible set of protocols and procedures that make WiFi networks complementary to cell carrier networks. ImageThe service, called Hotspot 2.0, uses the WiFi Alliance’s Passpoint 2.0 certification procedure for product certification to promote secure, seamless roaming between cell services and WiFi networks. (Read more here.) The first Hotspot 2.0 solution is expected to be introduced during 2013. Some access points are already Passpoint 2.0 certified, such as those deployed by Spot On Networks, used in CellBOOST. It is imperative to take a look at your property’s cellular coverage issues with an eye on the future- the DAS System will not hold up to the Hotspot 2.0, and neither will Femtocell. With all of these solutions available, cellular coverage issues within a building are soon to be a thing of the past (much like the beloved land line…), however, the important thing is choosing the right solution for your needs, and one that will stand the test of time.

WiFi and Tablets- Two Tech Tools to Leasing Freedom

March 20, 2013

Advances in technology have certainly improved various areas of our professional lives, and streamlined processes which otherwise require much time and resources. Many companies are making the decision to digitize more than ever before; and this is especially evident in the property management realm.

A recent article published by Units Magazine in the March 2013 issue, outlines how management companies are becoming [even stronger] advocates of community-wide WiFi access, in conjunction with implementingImage wireless devices to aid in the leasing process. In the article, author Paul Bergeron III explains that these technological advances are not simply for the larger REITs or national firms, but work favorably for management companies and communities of all sizes. Bergeron follows two management companies in particular throughout his article, Pillar Properties of Seattle, Washington, and Roscoe Properties of Austin, Texas, and documents their experiences concerning the implementation of property-wide technological systems.

Vice President of Pillar Properties, Billy Pettit, explains why their management company decided to install property-wide WiFi access, and what advantages have come of that decision, “Our agents can connect from anywhere on the property: from the underground parking garage to where they are standing on the roof. With our system, they don’t have to ‘sign in’ every time they walk into another part of the property.” He continues to add, “We’re finding that there is a segment of the prospective resident base that would choose not to live with us if we didn’t deliver this kind of connection speed.” For Pillar Properties, technology has drastically helped them to lease and retain renters; Pettit states, regarding a recent 234-unit opening, “It leased in four months (November to February)– which happens to be traditionally four of the slowest leasing months of the year.” For Pillar, it is undeniable that community-wide WiFi and technology advances at the property on the management end have helped to expand and sustain their base of business.

And it is no different for the folks over at Roscoe Properties, either. Vice President of Administration for Roscoe Properties, Steven Rea, said, “From what I see, we are way ahead of most in the country when it comes to applying mobile strategy to our marketing. I see us as being a digital company in an analog business.” He continues on to add, “The tablet has helped improve the agents’ ability to close leases at a moment’s notice– and when the moment is right.” In addition to the ease and readiness of using tablets to streamline the leasing process, Rea firmly believes that using state of the art tablets and technology vs the standardized paper forms, shows residents that their management company is cutting edge and tech-savvy, innovative and ahead of the curve; “They like that”, he concludes.

It is undeniable that we are amidst a technological revolution, and certainly the implementation and use of such technologies is to the advantage for modern businesses. Property-wide WiFi access is becoming an absolute make or break deal for the majority of today’s renters; and certainly the property management sector is headed down a new and exciting technological path. For Rea, his company’s goal is to be 100% paperless by years’ end; for some, this has become common place. For others, this is only the beginning.

There’s No Place Like Home….A Home With Good Service, That Is

March 6, 2013

There is nothing more frustrating than losing a call after entering a building, and unfortunately there is a direct correlation between the increasing prevalence of “dropped calls”, and the use of “green” construction materials.  While there are various factors which harbor potential to hinder cellular connectivity levels within a structure (ie. location and terrain), a main culprit is the use of LEED Certified building materials. Luckily there is a solution.Image

CellBOOST™ designed to bring cellular signal from outdoors inside a building using strategically placed antennas, is the answer. At a fraction of the cost of an elaborate DAS system, CellBOOST™ provides the level of service residents need, by offering seamless connectivity between outdoors and indoors. In addition to conquering cellular service issues, CellBOOST™ integrates property-wide Wi-Fi, and is Passpoint™/Hotspot 2.0 compatible, as we prepare ourselves for the next wave in Wi-Fi/Cellular technology: Next Generation Hotspots (NGH).

NGH is on the horizon, and quite the exciting advancement for the wireless industry; with the potential to change cellular and Wi-Fi connectivity forever. The Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) is responsible for this program, and it is predicted they will go commercial with their “seamless and secure cellular-to-Wi-Fi” roaming initiative in 2014.

The NGH program has multiple advantages from a design perspective, both for end users and carriers. Customers will experience a seamless, high-quality level of service as their devices automatically connect to the best available network, whether it be Wi-Fi or cellular. Where calls were previously dropped when entering cellularly-challenged buildings, now one’s device (in theory) will automatically connect them to the Wi-Fi network within that building, allowing them to remain on the phone, and also allowing said user to save money, in addition to data-offloading advantages for both the carrier, and user alike.

Carriers involved with the NGH program are in process of testing protocols implemented by the program, which will essentially allow Passpoint™ certified devices, which when connected to Passpoint™ certified equipment, know what network said device is currently using, and if there are better options available. In addition to this, the carrier can then set standards for their particular equipment/networks, which would “channel” users onto certain networks, either cellular or Wi-Fi, at predetermined times of day, or at times when a certain network is perhaps particularly overloaded.

While these advances are all very exciting, and plausible, they are still on the horizon. Combating cellular connectivity problems is an immediate issue, and a major one, at that. Implementing a system such as CellBOOST™ would certainly eliminate any sort of connectivity inadequacies, and also provide money-saving opportunities for residents by taking advantage of data-offload. CellBOOST™, while providing an immediate solution to cellular connectivity problems, utilizes Passpoint™ Certified equipment, for flawless integration in the future.

Cybersecurity: Breaking News on the Network Security Forefront

February 13, 2013

As we enter the age of cyber, well, everything, it is not unreasonable to think we are taking a huge risk by ultimately putting all of our data-eggs in one basket.

As more and more of our daily lives become computerized, backed up, and stored on the cloud, our data becomes more organized, smaller, and easily accessible. But just whom might be accessing this information has raised some serious questions, sparked debates, and ignited major change on the American cybersecurity forefront. While the main targets of the newly announced presidential plan are corporations and service providers, his points should spark an interest in all industries; and the multifamily housing sector is no different. One small measure which makes a huge difference when providing WiFi access for multiple users, is making sure you have a fully managed and monitored network in place to avoid any obvious disruptions or misuse of service.

Cybersecurity has may sectors in an uproar.On Tuesday, February 12, Obama addressed the cybersecurity concerns shared by many government officials during his State of the Union Address:

“[America’s enemies] are seeking the ability to sabotage our power grid, our financial institutions, and our air traffic control systems. We cannot look back years from now and wonder why we did nothing in the face of real threats to our security and our economy.”

A more detailed description of the executive orders is scheduled for today; however in his address The President strongly urged Congress to pass legislation taking measures to ensure higher levels of cybersecurity.

Obama’s order is said, by senior administration officials, to start the development of voluntary standards to preserve computer systems that run critical segments of our infrastructure, such as banking, power, and transportation, to name a few. This plan, which is months in the making, is proving to not only create difficult negotiations with private companies which oppose additional government regulation, but has also raised many questions; some of the most notable are:

            -Should a business be required to tell the government if it’s been hacked and U.S. interests are at stake?

            -Can a person sue their bank or water treatment facility if said company has not taken reasonable steps to protect their customers?

            -If a private company’s systems are breached, should the government intervene and stop the attacks? Does the government flip the bill for this service?

While the waters of internet regulation appear to become increasingly muddy, one thing is clear: most any information put onto the web is at risk of being compromised. This is very important for people to recognize, as the days of identity theft, hacking, malware, and viruses are upon us.

Just How Important is Wi-Fi?

January 14, 2013

The proof is in the pudding. A recent survey conducted by global research and consultancy firm Analysys Mason for Amdocs reveals that not only is Wi-Fi evolving into a critical differentiator for service providers, but also revealed just how important it is.

                Regardless of lingering technical and business related issues, 89% of all surveyed service providers (which include fixed, mobile, and cable), either already have or planned to deploy/leverage a Wi-Fi network. In addition to this, respondents rated the importance of Wi-Fi as >7 out of 10, with emphasis on the value of Wi-Fi for growth as a service provider.  Most business owners tend to equate “Wi-Fi” with free access, and, if this is you, this might be key to differentiating your business. Free Wi-Fi access is a great way to essentially reward your customers for their patronage, and incents them to come back. With many network providers also offering email marketing kits linked to the Wi-Fi network, there is no limit to the advantages and benefits one might yield. Think as a business owner for a second: if you had the ability to completely customize the splash page of your in-house Wi-Fi network with branding, offers, coupons, and other enticing offers for your customers, wouldn’t you fully take advantage of this massive marketing advantage? Sounds like a win-win situation for business owners and service providers alike.Image

                It is no secret that people want Wi-Fi, and they want it everywhere—seamlessly. Numerous municipal efforts to implement Wi-Fi prove this; and although many of those efforts have been terminated, cities are still striving for blanket Wi-Fi availability, including Chicago and Seattle who are both looking toward the advent of public and private networks, and New York City who just made an agreement with Google to light up part of the city.

                A “seamless experience”, between cellular and Wi-Fi, which rated a staggering 8.1 out of 10 by those surveyed, still proves to be one of the top technical barriers in deploying; second only to authentication issues.  Amdocs own vice president for product solutions marketing, Rebecca Prudhomme, stated, “This underscores the importance of having secure, scalable authentication and authorization solutions in place for ensuring a seamless experience as customers move in and out of the Wi-Fi network. Furthermore, real-time policy control opens up new opportunities for Wi-Fi monetization by allowing service providers to offer a range of differentiated services over Wi-Fi, such as tiered services and premium quality of service.” Which brings me to my next point:

                Monetization. As most of the technical issues will be sorted out in due time, another area which needs a fair amount of innovation are service providers’ monetization models. While a generous 57% of service providers whom have already deployed Wi-Fi networks state they are monetizing their offerings, the survey also found that many of them are looking to revamp “old” monetization models which eliminate directly charging customers.

“Our research shows that while the service provider Wi-Fi market is still in its early stages, service providers are adopting a forward looking attitude that goes beyond using regular Wi-Fi to offload congested 3G and 4G networks. While offload is still a priority, it’s clear that service providers are looking to service provider Wi-Fi as a competitive differentiator, and there is strong interest in exploring new and innovative business models for Wi-Fi monetization.”,  said Chris Nicoll, principal analyst at Analysys Mason. This survey has revealed much about where the service providers will likely take the market next, and has also shed some insight onto the importance of Wi-Fi for not only data offload, but for a competitive advantage.Freeing up data with the implementation of Wi-Fi networks, either city-wide or more localized will certainly be a massive stepping stone in this technological era we are experiencing.  

Top News: FCC Initiates Release of 195 MHz of Unlicensed 5 GHz Spectrum

January 11, 2013

          Great news on the wireless front, coming from the FCC: Chairman Julius Genachowski announced at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) on Wednesday, January 9, 2013, the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) will be working towards freeing up as much as 195 MHz of spectrum in the 5 GHz band, making it the largest block of unlicensed spectrum to be made available in a decade.


                The move is designed to alleviate heavy Wi-Fi traffic at sites such as airports, convention centers, and large conferences, while simultaneously increasing HD video quality and improving speeds in residences with multiple devices. This action will increase and free-up the unlicensed spectrum available for ultra high-speed, high-capacity Wi-Fi (known as Gigabit Wi-Fi), by up to 35%.  

          Alleviating network congestion and approving use of the unlicensed spectrum is one part of a much larger “technology initiative” ordered by President Obama: to free as much as 500 MHz of spectrum by 2020. Rob Enderle, Principal Analyst at the Enderle Group, states, “Given that National WiFi expansion is a presidential priority, the FCC is likely going to do all it can to free up the spectrum.” Chairman Genachowski has committed the Commission to move hastily in order to complete this process, however, as the 5GHz band is currently used for Federal and non-Federal purposes, the effort will likely require a significant collaboration between multiple agencies. Harold Feld, Senior Vice President at Public Knowledge said, “There’s a potential with a move like this to not just look at bands generically, but to differentiate the circumstances where these bands should be put to use as they become available. That can make it become a much more efficient system overall, when we can match the traffic and need with the right spectrum.” ImageThe FCC has not only committed to free up bandwidth, but they have also hinted at putting an increased emphasis on spectrum allocation. Feld continued on to state, “Having more of these bands that are separate from each other allows you more freedom and better setup if you’re at a convention center, for instance. You can dedicate the 5 GHz band to the WiFi for the convention floor, while different bands are being used for services like internal security and credit card readers and other needs for a wireless network.” In addition to more specific allocation, the FCC additionally has taken steps in recent years to employ the potential of next-generation unlicensed spectrum, which operates in a lower frequency than existing Wi-Fi, and would enable wireless communication to travel longer distances, better penetrate barriers such as building materials, and offer improved coverage over varying terrain.

             It is evident that the Commission is better understanding the urgent need for not only wireless service, but improved wireless service, for the enterprise and consumer landscape. This need is only increasing as the population quickly gravitates towards the inevitable use of smartphones, tablets, and the cloud. It is a very interesting time for technology, and the Wi-Fi world as a whole; it is likely that such a massive release of spectrum for National use will spark a total reconstruction of what we now know as a wireless network. For now, we sit back and wait.

No Noise Is Good Noise

December 26, 2012

As internet usage and the increasing demand for immediacy expand, Internet Service Providers are quickly learning that unresolved glitches and errors in network functionality are creating much ‘noise’ on the social media front, ultimately translating into a bad rap- for property managers and providers alike.


In an article written by David Daugherty for Broadband Communities magazine’s October 2012 Issue, he explains, “Noise is an indicator of how well a service provider performs day to day. If residents make noise in the front office about poor internet performance, rest assured they are voicing their discontent socially.”  This is especially a concern in the student housing sector, as students so widely rely on the internet and social media for many daily activities, such as schoolwork and entertainment. At student housing properties, this noise does not go long unheard, as social media sites are an optimal vehicle for the residents to ‘echo’ any issues they might be experiencing. Philip Emer, director of technology for Preiss Properties, states that in some cases, it has even proven helpful to use said social media thread to help diagnose and address certain problems networks may be experiencing. It is no secret that any problems with service not rapidly addressed, have a surprisingly efficient way of presenting themselves to not only fellow residents, but also property management, regional and corporate offices, and the service providers. In the long run, inadequate customer service definitely has the potential to create a poor reputation for all parties involved.

Luckily, there is a solution. It has taken some time, trial, and error, but the industry is now realizing that many former business models are in need of a total revamp, such as self-help and troubleshooting interfaces. It is important that any network used at a multi-unit facility, especially student housing, is fully managed and monitored to assure a seamless user experience. Subscribers are eagerly seeking swift, tech-savvy, easily attainable customer support representatives, and more service-oriented assistance, less reliant on the outdated do-it-yourself model. Daugherty says simply, “key stakeholders must understand that maintaining customer expectations is a never-ending task”.

Conquering Compromised Connectivity in Eco-Conscious Construction

December 5, 2012

As the world-wide Green Movement marches on, it appears there are an increasing number of hurdles to overcome regarding technology, and how to successfully mesh the two. The majority of new construction involves “LEED Certified” building materials, which, unfortunately, have a tricky way of dulling cellular service within the building to a minimum.

Even if your building has managed to dodge the common cell service bullets, such as distant cell towers, uncooperative topography, or an overabundance of neighboring structures, using responsible, Eco-friendly materials may hamper you, service-wise, in the long run. As this issues becomes more and more prevalent, many building owners are searching frantically for a resolution.

Currently there are few options on the market which increase cellular service within a building, most of which are extremely inefficient cost-wise, and will most likely be outdated in just a couple years. One such example is a DAS System, or a Distributed Antennae System, which requires rigorous installation, and can cost on average $2 per square foot–which, as you can imagine,  adds up very quickly in large, multi-unit construction.

Luckily, there are more time efficient and cost effective solutions available. Systems such as CellBoost, recently introduced by Spot On Networks, are easily and quickly installed, extremely reliable, and a fraction of the cost of a DAS system, at only $ .15 – $ .45 a square foot. CellBoost maximizes data and voice coverage and minimizes the cost of providing these services by boosting the signal received outdoors, so that the signal strength indoors is amplified. The implementation of a WiFi network in addition to the booster system provides connectivity and increased capacity for users of data-driven devices, while simultaneously providing coverage for voice services. Problem solved.

Secure WiFi is a MUST for Hotels & Multifamily Properties

November 29, 2012

On November 25, 2012 The Wall Street Journal published an article (referenced below) speaking of how police were able to find a man suspected of downloading child pornography  because he was using an unsecured network.  Ultimately,  part of the decision written by Judge Conti stated  “An internet subscriber does not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in his IP address or the information he provides to his Internet Service Provider, such as Comcast, in order to legally establish an internet connection, and likewise , a person connecting to another person’s wireless router does not have an expectation of privacy in that connection”.

A main technological concern for multifamily properties and hotel owners needs to be the security of their WiFi network.  When a property provides WiFi they become an ISP (Internet Service Provider) and are thus responsible for the Internet they provider.  Multifamily properties and hotels can lessen the burden by using a managed, secure and CALEA compliant WiFi provider to handle their network for them.

The WSJ article quotes numbers from a 2011 poll conducted by Wakefield Research and the trade association Wi-Fi Alliance that “32% of respondents said they had tried to get on a wireless nework that wasn’t theirs”.   Apartment buildings, shops, hotels, private homes, offices, etc. etc. are operating unsecured networks and leaving their residents, guests and patrons vulnerable to hacking and identity theft.  It is critical, now more than ever, that residential properties, hotels and business provide secure Wi-Fi at their locations.  It is equally important that Wi-Fi network users are aware of the type of network that they are on, whether secured or unsecured, and the level of privacy and security that the network provides.

Hotels and multifamily properties can opt to provide their buildlings with a UserSafe™ WiFi network as opposed to an “open” network.  A UserSafe™ network guards users from hacking and identity theft, ensures privacy and is CALEA compliant.  CALEA compliance takes the WiFi network responsibility from the property by incorporating a full network management aspect.

Wall Street Journal Article:

Crossing the Bridge to Cellular, Energy, and Financial Efficiency

October 24, 2012

It is important for Property Owners to think ahead while building and/or renovating a property for any number of reasons, but as the green movement and the WiFi revolution advance simultaneously there become more obstacles to overcome, and with that, more solutions.
Richard J. Sherwin, CEO of Spot On Networks states, “The typical apartment owner needs to figure out how to solve the cellular wireless problem”, in an article written for on October 23, 2012. Sherwin continues, adding, “The signal does not penetrate buildings with energy preserving glass.”, which proves a huge hurdle for Property Owners, as they strive for energy efficiency and top notch technology to suit their tenants.

It is no secret that cell service is huge must for today’s renters; Mike Smith, director or Building Technology Services Group for Forest City Enterprises, knows this firsthand. “As residents tour our properties, they’re looking to see if their phones will work,” says Smith in that same article. Smith continues, “We have projects in Washington D.C. and we go out beforehand and have great cell coverage. Then you put the building up and it’s sustainable and LEED-certified and it kills the reception.”
There are a few solutions available today to combat this issue; however, most are extremely expensive and simply out of reach for many Property Owners. One cost efficient solution is to implement a property-wide wireless internet network, which also offers cell phone data transmission. This affords residents seamless cellular connectivity, even if a building is posing as gate-keeper for cell service. Not only that, but your residents will be thrilled with the adjunct of property wide wireless internet.