Archive for the ‘wifi amenity’ Category

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

April 12, 2013
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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.

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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.

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.

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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”.

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 Multifamilybiz.com 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.

The Rise and Fall of the Rental Regime

October 11, 2012

The moon waxes and wanes, tides ebb and flow, and we all know that what goes up, will eventually come down; so it came as no surprise when the rental market started “showing signs of losing steam”, according to a recent report from Reis Inc.

Image Courtesy of Wall Street Journal

     In an article from the Wall Street Journal on October 3, 2012, Dawn Wotapka outlines some interesting statistics regarding the recent slump in the rental sector, possibly due to tenants feelings more inclined to purchase real estate while the rates are so low.

What does this mean for the multihousing industry? Well, seeing as research firm Zelman & Associates estimates roughly 235,000 units to be new construction this year alone, it might mean a few things for a property owner.
Not only will rental prices likely decrease over the years to come in order to obtain and more importantly, maintain occupancy; but property owners will have to do their fair share to make renting more attractive than owning. The good news here is that rental properties already have a head start– one word: amenities. Services such as Wi-Fi, when included with a rental property, automatically make a bare home look exactly that, bare. It is essential that owners do all they can to outfit their rental properties with all desired amenities, and adding a fully managed and monitored wireless network to any property is certainly going to increase the rentability, while also leaving property managers and owners available to fully focus on advertising their amenities advantage, and filling their buildings.

AT&T adds Chicago to Wi-Fi Roster

August 9, 2010

Chicago was AT&T’s third addition to it’s city Wi-Fi hotspot project.  In an effort to offload data from 3G to Wi-Fi, AT&T has recently deployed Wi-Fi networks in Charlotte, N.C. and Times Square, N.Y.  AT&T “Hotzones” are for the use of AT&T subscribers only and are free of charge.  After more than a year of reporting on the problems that 3G is going to face keeping up with the onslaught of high data usage devices, AT&T is answering subscribers call with the city “Hotzones” and Wi-Fi service in commercial businesses such as McDonalds and Starbucks.

This addition to Wi-Fi Hotzones comes on the tail of AT&T recent quarterly Wi-Fi usage report that 121.2 million Wi-Fi connections have been made at AT&T Hotzones in the first half of the year.  AT&T has labeled Wi-Fi as a “must-have amenity”.

AT&T Wi-Fi report proof of mobile users reliance on Wi-Fi

July 26, 2010

Image Courtesy: iphonefaqs.com

By now you have probably already read (and if not, be prepared to be impressed) about AT&T’s quarterly Wi-Fi usage report, which boasts 121.2 million connections made in the first half of 2010. Compare that number to AT&T’s 85.5 million connections in the entire year of 2009 and only 20 million connections made in 2008 and you get one impressive increase in users making Wi-Fi connections. AT&T’s press release gives credit to both the increase in smartphone users and the increase in AT&T “hotzones”, which according to WiFiNetNews.com is primarily due to the free Wi-Fi at McDonald’s, powered by AT&T. According to WiFiNetNews.com McDonalds and Starbucks “represent about 19,000 of AT&T’s “more than 20,000” locations. AT&T’s release also speaks of the mobile device user’s reliance on mobile broadband as well as the importance of businesses providing free Wi-Fi to their residents, customers, guests, etc. AT&T referred to Wi-Fi as a “must-have amenity” to hotel guests. We have been saying exactly that for a long time. AT&T backed up the “must-have” amenity statement with mention of their recent deal with Hilton Worldwide to deploy Wi-Fi networks at 3200 Hilton properties . The Wi-Fi Revolution™ has arrived and it is only going to get bigger. The modern mobile device user simply needs broadband connectivity to not only accomplish everyday tasks (such as work, play, social networking, email, etc) but to take full advantage ofthe the range of their mobile device. Many device applications are designed for Wi-Fi use only. 3G simply doesn’t cut it anymore – AT&T’s sheer increase in connections over the past 2 years are a testament to that. Read the AT&T release here. Wi-Fi connectivity is a “must-have” amenity – We will enhance your property, business, building, etc. with a custom designed Wi-Fi network tailored to the needs of your property. Contact sales today.

AT&T & Apple face lawsuits over data cap on iPad

June 28, 2010

iPad consumers are angered over AT&T’s new rate plans and the impact that they will have on iPad users.  AT&T’s new plans, which went into effect on June 7th, coordinating with the release of iPhone 4, no longer offer unlimited data.  For the new plan details, click here.   AT&T advertised that iPad users would have the ability to easily be able to opt in or out of unlimited data plans.  While, AT&T is allowing iPad users to keep unlimited data for now, if they skip a month, they will no longer be able go back to having unlimited data.

AT&T’s announcement of their new plans came very quickly after the release release of the 3G enabled iPad (which had previously only been available with Wi-Fi capability).  Consumers feel as though they have been tricked into either waiting to purchase the 3G iPad or trading in/ upgrading their Wi-Fi only iPad to the 3G version – only to find out that there are now data caps on the plans.  One customer was quoted on fiercebroadbandwireless.com as saying:

I originally purchased a standard iPad. Three weeks later, I returned it to the Apple store, paying an additional $130 plus sales tax to upgrade to an iPad with 3G capability. I thought the iPad 3G was worth the additional money because, with the unlimited data plan, I could work outside my office or home and access all the data I needed for a fixed, monthly price,” commented plaintiff Adam Weisblatt in a release distributed by law firm Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein. “But I also knew that for several months each year, with my schedule, a lesser expensive, limited data plan was sufficient. I would have never purchased a 3G-capable iPad if I knew Apple and AT&T were planning on suddenly taking away from me the freedom to opt in and out of an unlimited data plan at my choice.

The cellular companies have long been scrutinized for sucking consumers into long term contracts with large cancellation penalties, making new offers available only to those willing to sign more contracts and charging huge overage and equipment charges.  It seems, however, that the data plan caps have sent consumers over the edge.  The lawsuit being filed claims that AT&T and Apple used a “bait and switch” tactic that tricked consumers into purchasing the 3G capable iPad.  iPad users frustration is understandable, especially since both AT&T and Apple advertised the 3G enabled iPad as having a easy to use unlimited data option for so long and then switched the plan so soon after the 3G iPad release.

We will keep you posted on this situation as it unfolds!

Starbucks to offer Free Wi-Fi at all locations

June 16, 2010
Image Courtesy: Starbucks.com

Beginning on July 1st, Starbucks will be offering Wi-Fi as a free amenity at all Starbucks owned stores (this does not include affilate stores – like the one you would find in Target, for example).

Currently, Starbucks offers Wi-Fi in their stores, however you must register your Starbucks card, create a user name and password and then you can receive 2 consecutive hours of complimentary Wi-Fi from AT&T.  Read more about the changes that Starbucks is making to their Wi-Fi business model, including access to news content such as Zagats and The Wall Street Journal.

Complimentary Wi-Fi access is now more important than ever.  With the major cellular companies no longer offering unlimited data on their service plans, offloading data is essential to a user’s connectivity and will become even more-so, as data usage will only go up in the future.  Not to mention- some applications for devices, such as the iPad, are designed ONLY for operation over Wi-Fi, as designers have found 3G to slow and unreliable.

These changes show that Starbucks “gets it” on a few levels.  Consumers are begining to expect Wi-Fi service as a free amenity.  Wi-Fi is kind of like the “rebel service” – it gives us the power to remain connected, while forgoing the phone company, the cable company, etc.  Starbucks must have come to realize that if I can’t sit in a Starbucks and access free Wi-Fi in a simple, non-intrusive manner, then I can always scoot over to McDonalds, use their Free Wi-Fi, and grab a coffee there (their coffee is surprisingly good).

It’s not only the “free” that people expect – but they don’t want to have to register a card, provide their personal information and have a restriction on their usage.  So, for a company that thrives on customers not only coming in for coffee, but coming in, sitting down and having that “home-away-from-home” experience, Wi-Fi as a free amenity is a necessity, at this point.

Spot On Networks has long understood the importance of Wi-Fi as an amenity to restaurants, hotels, apartment buildings and condo complexes.  Spot On Networks has contracted with residential property developers throughout the United States to provide managed High-Speed Wireless Internet Access in residential multi-family dwelling complexes, hotels, restaurants, etc.  This makes us the largest provider of high speed Wi-Fi internet to the United States multi-family housing market.  Need information about deploying a custom Wi-Fi network at your property?  Click here.

Google to surrender data collected over unsecured networks

June 4, 2010
Image Courtesy: blog.redfin.com

The New York Times reported today that, despite earlier refusals, Google has now agreed to turn over data that was collected from unsecured Wi-Fi networks while taking snapshots for Google Street View.  Google CEO, Eric Schmidt, will share the collected personal data with officials in Germany, Spain and France.  The data collected over unsecured networks is said to contain snapshots of personal information including emails, bank account numbers, etc.  Schmidt said in a Thursday interview in London, that he also plans to “make public the results of internal and external audits of its Wi-Fi data collection practices” (NYT).

Despite the European outrage over the Wi-Fi data collection issue, the U.S. seems to be a lot less disgruntled over the situation.  While the FCC is taking a look at the issue, there is an obvious difference in the reaction of the U.S.  There have been a few lawsuits filed against Google in the U.S., with one judge in Oregon in giving Google 10 days (from 6/3) to hand over data collected over unsecured Wi-Fi networks.  However, the U.S does seem considerably less upset with Google, from an official standpoint.

From all bad, however, comes good and I think that it is important to look at what we have learned from the Google situation.  Wi-Fi network security is extreamly important.  I can pick up at least one unsecured network from one of my Wi-Fi enabled devices, most of the time.  Free “hotspots” in cafes, stores and even hotels can be unsecure and not properly monitored.  Not only is Wi-Fi networks security important to protect our personal data, but it has also become important as goverments find it necessary to begin to create laws and issue levels of responsibility to owners and operators of Wi-Fi networks.

Look at Germany, for example.  They recently passed litigation that will hold operators of unsecured Wi-Fi networks responsible for what occurs on that network (such as illegal downloading).  Take CALEA (Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act – read more) in the U.S.  This law places an enormous amount of responsibility on the owners/ operators of Wi-Fi networks.  So as Wi-Fi becomes the primary use for telecommunication and mobile networking, goverments are going to tighten up restrictions on what is acceptable and what network security is necessary.  So, not only is in important to protect our personal information, but network owners and operators of Wi-Fi hotspots need to be concerned about security as well.

Spot On’s Wi-Fi networks use the highest standards of security to protect your personal information.  So, a situation like Google StreetView sniffing personal data cannot happen with Spot On’s network.  On our network, we do not allow a computer to talk to another computer.  In the instance of StreetView – a personal computer, over an unsecured Wi-Fi network had the ability to talk to the StreetView car – on a Spot On Network, the user computer can talk to the Internet, but is blocked from being able to talk to another computer… thus, information over our Wi-Fi network can never be sniffed out.  Read more about our security.

As for owners and operators of Wi-Fi hotspots – we urge you to become familiar with CALEA and what it means for your level of responsibility.  If you are self-operating a Wi-Fi networks, that is, you have a router and are offering Wi-Fi as amenity… you need to be aware of your responsibility for what occurs over your network and who accesses your networks.  Spot On Wi-Fi networks take that responsibility off our your back.  We are fully CALEA Compliant and monitor our network so that your Wi-Fi network is legal.  Not sure if you are CALEA Compliant?  Contact us for more information and we can help to access the security of your Wi-Fi network, whether you are a small cafe offering free Wi-Fi for a large-scale high-rise apartment building.

All in all, we can learn a lot from the Google situation – it is important that we are aware and responsibile for the security of our Wi-Fi networks, not only for our personal networks – but for when we are providing Wi-Fi for others.

AT&T announces iPhone tethering – gets rid of “unlimited data” in plans

June 2, 2010

According to fiercebroadbandwireless.com, AT&T announced, that as of June 7th (the anticipated date of the new iPhone OS 4) they will be changing their current smartphone pricing plans.  AT&T is doing away with unlimited data usage and instead will offer 200 MB of data for $15 per month or 2 GB of data for $30.  According to AT&T the unlimited data plan is unnecessary, reporting that 98% of AT&T smartphone users are using less than 2 GB per month and 65% use less than 200 MB per month of data.  That sounds all well and good – but why get rid of the unlimited data plan then?  If only 2% of customers are benefiting from the unlimited data, why risk agitating them if it’s a non-issue?  That doesn’t seem to make much sense. What does make sense, however, is that in an effort to curb the ongoing data gridlock issue that AT&T has been experiencing for sometime now, in addition to providing free Wi-Fi in areas like NY and pushing consumers towards the Microcell,  AT&T is doing away with offering it’s subscribers unlimited data.

On the upside, however, AT&T will not be charging ridiculous overage charges in the event that a user exceeds their data plan.  For the present billing cycle, the customer will simply receive another monthly data purchase of the amount of data that they currently pay for (200 MB or 2 GB).

In more big AT&T smartphone news – AT&T is finally announcing that users will be able to purchase tethering for the iPhone OS4 (read about the stolen iPhone OS4 here).  For an additional $20 per month, iPhone will be able to tether to their laptop via USB or Bluetooth (if they have purchased the higher data usage plan called: DataPro).  This is huge news as one of the main features of competing smartphones, such as the Droid OS (FroYo) is the availability of tethering.  Consumers and technology news outlets have long been wondering when Apple and AT&T would bring tethering to the iPhone.  Apple has brought, upon itself, a lot of controversy by not offering features with it’s mobile devices that are proving to be expected and common-place features  (such as tethering, Flash support, etc) as well as keeping a tight reign on app production (such as WiFi Sync – an app that was hugely beneficial to many consumers).

The makes data gridlock solutions like Cell-Fi™ even more important.  Now that iPhone users will have a cap on their data consumption – it will become even more important to offload data to Wi-Fi networks to avoid racking up even more charges on your monthly cellular bill.  Data usage over Wi-Fi will not go against the data that one uses over the 3G network.