Archive for the ‘news’ 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”.

Verizon, Google and the Net Neutrality Debate

August 17, 2010
Image: socialsignal.com

Hot on the tech news circuit last week was the Net Neutrality debate which is heating up as more companies begin to take sides.  If you are not familiar with what has been happening in the world of Net Neutrality, here’s a quick synopsis:

About a week ago, Google and Verizon, proposed an agreement that would seal the deal on Net Neutrality (keeping the Internet open), but it had one [not so] small catch.  In the agreement, wireless, mobile broadband would receive an exemption from Internet openness.  This has begun to spark massive debate over what would happen if this “proposal” were actually presented as a piece of legislation (this would need congressional and FCC approval and is not simply a business deal).  You can read the official agreement here. Concern has been label by some as “cable-ization” of the Internet – content that used to be all fair game and evenly accessible would be able to be pushed ahead, eliminated altogether,”premier” Internet content could be made available to those who paid more for their mobile service and certain users might receive “prioritized” content.

Anyone who has read an ounce of technology news in the last year understands that this is a very big deal.  With Smartphones making up for over 20% of the cellular industry and Wi-Fi networks appearing almost everywhere, it is safe to say that the future will be a wireless world.  I find it almost comical that wired Internet openness is protected in proposal…what a perfect distraction from what is really going on here!  Who cares so much about wired Internet when the whole world is becoming mobile?

Companies have begun to choose sides.  For example AT&T, which would obviously benefit from having more control over the content that is delivered and sold to it’s subscribers call the proposal, according to the New York Times, “a reasonable framework”.  On the flip side, companies that were born out of Internet openness like those of Facebook, were coming out not in support of the proposal.

Today the debate pot was stirred again as House Democrats “slammed” the proposal, according to PCWorld, in fact the proposal prompted Reps, Edward Markey, Anna Eshoo, Mike Doyle, and Jay Inslee to write a letter to the FCC chairman urging him to act on broadband regulation.  The letter referred to Internet doomsday prophesy such as, “closing the open Internet”, “inconsistent principals”, and creating demographics where users who need content the most would not be able to obtain it.

According to PCWorld, Richard Whitt, Washington telecom and media counsel for Google defended the proposal, stating, “No other company is working as tirelessly for an open Internet”.  That being said, the writing on the wall is very real and does present a future in which the, Internet-as-we-know-it, may suffer greatly.

For more on The Net Neutrality Debate, check out these articles:

NYT

PCWorld

Fiercebroadbandwireless.com

Obama works to add broadband spectrum for commercial use

June 28, 2010

According to the New York Times, President Obama will sign, today, a memorandum that will allow for 500 megahertz of broadband spectrum to be auctioned off.  The majority of spectrum will be available for commercial use – this addition spectrum will almost double what is currently available and is a necessary addition given the prediction of expected mobile device usage in the coming years.

Some of the plan, which will allow for the freeing up of spectrum which is owned by both the government and private companies, will need to be approved by Congress.  The plan comes in the wake of a March recommendation by the FCC in its “National Broadband Plan”.

Read the NYT article

AT&T femtocell service is included in new data usage limits

June 23, 2010

This is just mind boggling to me:

We wrote about the AT&T femtocell awhile back.  AT&T’s femtocell, the “Microcell”, is a mini-tower that can allow up to 10 AT&T phones to get 3G signal (four at once) – the devices covers 5000 sq. ft.   The femtocell comes at a one-time cost of $150 dollars and for $20/ month you can recieve unlimited calling over the femtocell.  Some were assuming that usage over the femtocell would not be included in the newly imposed data usage caps that have begun by AT&T and other cell carriers.  However, that is not the case.  Data usage over the femtocell WILL count against data caps.

In a DSL article, AT&T spokesman, Seth Bloom, speaks to AT&T preference of Wi-Fi for offloading data:

3G MicroCell is primarily intended to enhance the voice call quality experience in your home. While it can carry mobile data traffic, that’s not the primary solution it provides. WiFi is the optimal solution for home mobile data use. We encourage people to take advantage of Wi-Fi capabilities – that’s why all of our smartphones include WiFi radios, and usage on WiFi doesn’t count against your mobile data usage bucket.

Wait.  Stop right there.  Let’s go back to how this all works.  The Microcell (AT&T’s femtocell) routes both calling and data over the same broadband connection that is used by Wi-Fi, so why would the user be charged not only for minutes usage but for data usage as well when the data is utilizing the customers already-paid-for broadband connection?  AT&T’s justification here makes absolutely no sense and is upsetting alot of people, which I am surprised that AT&T is willing to do after all of the frustration subscribers have experienced over the 3G network and the added anger that came with the announcements of Microcell pricing.
DSL reports on how “AT&T tries, fails to justify 3G cap-eating Microcell”.  We agree with DSL that most people would probably elect to use their Wi-Fi connection when in the home over using the Microcell, however, that really is not the point.  Quite simply, AT&T is squeezing every possible dollar out of the consumer and this is just to get service to be satisfactory.  And, as it is with the Microcell, you are routing calls over the broadband service that you are already paying for.  So, in addition to being charged for the equipment ($150) and being charged a $20 “unlimited” calling fee (which does not include data) you are in essence being re-charged for your broadband (in some instances by a company which does not even supply your broadband service).  It really is ludicrious when you think about it.  We also must remember that the Microcell is a piece of hardware that benefits the cell carrier – you are doing them a favor by having it.  DSL said it well:
Consider these are users shelling out for a home broadband connection, a wireless 3G and data connection, possibly an added landline connection, the upfront cost of hardware, and an additional $20 if they want unlimited voice that doesn’t eat away at their minutes. Just how much are we expecting the average consumer to pay per month for simple, regular-use voice and data connectivity?Either AT&T’s gunning to make an additional few million annually in revenue off of those incapable of differentiating between 3G and Wi-Fi, or they’re incapable of getting the Wi-Fi/3G femtocell billing straightened out and don’t want to admit it.

Read more about data caps over the Microcell from fiercebroadbandwireless.com.

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.

More on AT&T stops unlimited data usage…

June 2, 2010

Image Courtesy: boston.com

…and the news keeps pouring in!

As we reported earlier today, this morning AT&T announced it’s plans to stop offering unlimited data plans as an option for their smartphone, iPhone and iPad users.  The New York Times is citing the data gridlock experienced over AT&T’s 3G network as the major reason for the plan changes (which we all saw coming).  The plan changes are going to come in the form of two new plans, DataPlus (200 MB – $15/ month) and DataPro (2GB – $25/ month) – with the added option of tethering for DataPro customers ($20/ month).

Earlier reports of the plan changes had AT&T claiming that these changes would not really affect AT&T subscribers, as only 98% of subscribers use over 2GB.  So…. we are all sitting here asking ourselves “Why the big change, then?”.  At least the NYT got it right when they focused on data gridlock as the major cause behind these changes.  This is one of many AT&T attempts dissuade subscribers from high data usage over the 3G network.  Last week saw AT&T’s announcement that subscribers would now be able to access free Wi-Fi in Times Square (one of the areas that experience huge data traffic problems.  Here’s my question: If AT&T says no longer offering unlimited data will only really affect less than 2% of subscribers – how is it going to help their data gridlock issue?  If we are to believe that what AT&T is saying is true – we will have to believe that the majority of subscribers will be using the same amount of data – therefore not affecting the data gridlock issue at all.

Subscribers will have the option of grandfathering into their existing unlimited data plan – but, again, the new tethering feature will only be available to DataPro subscribers.  So, simply – no new plan = no tethering.

The New York Times predicts that this recent announcement by AT&T is just the beginning and that putting a cap on data usage will be picked up by other carriers in the cellular industry.

Here are some user comments from Boston.com reporting on the AT&T plan changes:

Have fun Iphone users. If you think you’re not going to go over the minimum cap you’re fooling yourselves. This should be interesting when the numbers start to be revealed and the uproar that will come with it. Ha! – Casa

So it’s official… Once my contract is up I’m switching from my Iphone to an Android phone. Thanks Apple for changing the smartphone game, but others have caught up. Just look at the HTC Incredible on Verizon for example – wintyb

It’s funny to me that AT&T is justifying the plan change due to “congestion” in heavily concentrated areas of iPhone users. Yet, they are not changing the plan for existing users. So, unless they think the existing users are going to start using their phones less, how does this “fix” the problem as opposed to just fleecing new users?

Maybe the intent is to deter new users from getting iPhones so that the congestion levels stay consistent. Way to attract more users AT&T.

They know the phones are getting cheaper so more people will be signing up and they found a way to get more money out of them…

Let’s see if they get vilified like Verizon did – cmv1971

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.

Free iPad Summer Slogan Contest Winner!

May 28, 2010

We have a winner!

Congratulations to Matthew Crowe of Long Beach, CA – winner of our 2010 “Wi-Fi Summer Slogan Contest” and winner of a 32 GB iPad, courtesy of Spot On Networks!  Matt’s winning slogan “Internet…with no strings attached™” really blew us away.  In only a few words, Matt was able to describe what Spot On Networks High Speed Wi-Fi is all about.  “No Strings” means a lot more than just Wireless (Wi-Fi) Internet.  It means no “sign-your-life-away” contracts, no extra fees, taxes or equipment to purchase, no hidden terms and no misleading introductory pricing… “No Strings” means The Wi-Fi Revolution™!

Thanks Matt for a great slogan – we love it and hope you love your new iPad!